Water boss is youngest top woman

Liv Garfield

A 38-year-old BT executive is to become the youngest female FTSE 100 boss by taking over as head of water company Severn Trent.

Liv Garfield, who has described herself as a "working mum of two kids", was lured to the utility giant with a pay package worth up to £2.4 million after two-and-a-half years in charge of the telecoms giant's Openreach division, overseeing its £2.5 billion roll-out of fibre broadband.
Ms Garfield, who has worked her way up the ranks at BT after joining in 2002, will now become chief executive of a company with 4.2 million customers and which earlier this year rejected a £5.3 billion takeover offer.

She is to take up the role when current boss Tony Wray retires next spring, adding to the still tiny proportion of top-flight London-listed businesses headed by women.
The tally currently stands at three. Burberry's Angela Ahrendts is due to leave by the middle of next year but it looks likely that Royal Mail's Moya Greene will join the list as the newly-privatised company is expected to join the FTSE 100.

Carolyn McCall of easyJet and Alison Cooper of Imperial Tobacco also head companies in the group.

Cambridge-educated Ms Garfield, originally from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, is also a non-executive director of Tesco. She described herself as a "working mum of two kids" with "a busy day job" in a Daily Telegraph interview earlier this year.

At Severn Trent she will be paid a basic salary of £650,000 and also receive a pension contribution of 25%, equalling £162,500. Her maximum annual bonus of 120% would be £780,000.

Details of her pay package at BT were not available though her new employers said she would be enrolled in a long-term incentive plan to help meet the loss of a deferred cash bonus she forfeited by leaving the telecoms company.

The plan is worth up to 125% of her annual salary, or £812,500.

Ms Garfield said: "I am really looking forward to joining Severn Trent. It is a leader in an industry going through significant change and has, at its heart, a commitment to serving its customers well."

Chairman Andrew Duff said: "We are delighted that Liv is joining us to be our next chief executive. Liv brings experience of managing customer service delivery and complex organisations in a regulated environment."

In June, a proposed takeover of Severn Trent collapsed when a Canadian-led consortium pulled out, days after its final £5.3 billion offer was rejected, the third time its overtures had been spurned by the group's board.

While in charge of Openreach, Ms Garfield has overseen the roll-out of broadband, which BT says is transforming the lives of households and businesses across the country.

Announcing her departure, she said: "It is a huge wrench to leave Openreach but I feel the time is right to take on a fresh challenge. Our commercial programme to bring fibre broadband to two-thirds of UK premises is almost complete."

BT chief executive Gavin Patterson said: "Liv has made an enormous contribution to BT over the past 12 years and she'll be greatly missed."

The roll-out of superfast broadband has come under fire, with MPs accusing the Government of placing sole provider BT in a "quasi-monopolistic position" which will end with it owning assets created from £1.2 billion of public money.

BT rejected the criticism from the Public Accounts Committee, pointing out that the network would be open to all its rivals.

© 2013 Press Association
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