Carphone Warehouse founder, and knighthood holder Charles Dunstone is to step down from his role as chairman of the Dixons Carphone group after 27 years at the helm. This is to allow Dunstone to take up the role of executive chairman at TalkTalk, a previous arm of Carphone Warehouse split off in 2010.
The news comes simultaneous to current TalkTalk CEO Dido Harding stepping down, with rumours swirling of a possible government job in the pipeline. Dido had been CEO since the company was split off.
Commenting on his departure, Charles Dunstone stated, ‘I founded Carphone Warehouse 27 years ago and it remains a very important part of my life. It is now three years since we agreed the merger with Dixons and I am delighted with the way both companies have performed since. We have built a very strong management team and I have great confidence in their ability, so I know that the company has an exciting future. I remain a committed shareholder and, in my new role as a senior advisor, I will continue to take an active interest in the business and look forward to seeing many colleagues throughout the year.’
Replacing the founder as chairman is Dixons Carphone deputy chairman Ian Livingston. Livingstone sits as a Conservative in the House of Lords and has previously held the positions of Minister of State for Trade and Investment and before that the position of BT Group CEO. He is set to take up the role from the 30th of April.
A statement on his appointment by Livingston reads, ‘I am proud to be appointed Chairman. It is a remarkable achievement by Charles to have grown this business from one store in the Marylebone Road to a business today that serves millions of customers across eleven countries and employs more than 42,000 people. I am delighted that he will remain very much connected with the business.
‘It is at an exciting time for Dixons Carphone. I look forward to working with the Board and Seb and his strong management team to continue to help our customers realise the best from new technology and the increasingly connected lives we all lead.’
Since starting the phone retailer from a flat in Marlyebone with £6,000, Dunstone grew Carphone Warehouse into a tech empire, with the role of the business developing in line with the increasing role of mobile devices, with a similar trajectory to the now defunct Phones 4u.
The main difference was the strategy of Charles Dunstone and the Carphone Warehouse senior management team to diversify the business, with differing levels of success. Acquisitions of other retailers and broadband suppliers gave the business economies of scale through their horizontal growth and cross selling opportunities in key verticals.
Ultimately, this gave the group the power to withstand occasionally uneasy relationships with networks, which while glad for the sales power of Carphone, were eager to expand their own retail estates.
That’s not to say it was always successful. Their joint venture to roll out Best Buy super stores throughout Europe was disastrous, with the eleven opened all closing in 2011 at a loss estimated at tens of millions of pounds. While just previous to this, TalkTalk struggled with low customer satisfaction and retention before being cast adrift by the group.
Merging with the Dixons Retail in 2014, Charles Dunstone oversaw representation and integration of the Carphone side. Meanwhile Seb James, then Dixons Retail Group CEO, became Dixons Carphone CEO and the lead integration of the two businesses. Their senior partnership and strong collaboration proved key in making a success of the merger, turning the combined entities into Europe’s most powerful tech retailer.
With shareprices jumping 10% at TalkTalk upon today’s double news at the broadband provider, it seems the City has high expectations of what he can do with the hack-rumbled company.