3 chief’s future hangs in balance

Mobile operator 3 UK’s strategy and marketing director, Lisa Gernon, is understood to be taking a six-month sabbatical, throwing into doubt her future role with the company.

The news follows the launch earlier this year of live video calls and colour sports highlights, which can be downloaded to handsets. The services have so far attracted just over 20,000 customers, and it is believed that Gernon is being seen as a scapegoat for 3’s failure to win more subscribers.

The company has not conclusively denied that Gernon is leaving. A spokesman says: “Gernon remains the strategy and marketing director for 3 UK, and the company has no announcement to make regarding her role, or any change to it.”

Hutchison Whampoa, 3’s parent company, originally announced that it expected to win 1 million customers in the UK by the end of 2003. Many analysts believe Hutchison will find it difficult to gain even a few hundred thousand UK customers by this date.

Gernon, previously acting marketing chief at 3, was given the permanent post of strategy and marketing director earlier this year (MW February 14).

She has an impressive track record in telecoms marketing – as group marketing director of Orange, formerly Hutchison Telecom UK, from 1994 to 1997, she was part of the team that took the company to the stock market. She was chief executive of Cable & Wireless Mobile from 1997 to 2000, responsible for product development, mergers and acquisitions and marketing internet services.

Originally called Hutchison 3G, the mobile operator was rebranded as 3 UK towards the end of last year.

Separately, O2 vice-president of marketing Will Harris has confirmed that he is talks with his employer about taking a six-month sabbatical. Harris says: “It is not true that I’m leaving, but I’ve talked openly about going on a sabbatical. The company has not agreed to this, however.”

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