CFO Stephen Rue to be NBN Co’s next chief executive

CFO takes over from Bill Morrow
NBN Co's new CEO, Stephen Rue.

NBN Co's new CEO, Stephen Rue.

NBN Co’s chief financial officer Stephen Rue will take over as the government-owned company’s chief executive from 1 September.

Rue replaces Bill Morrow as CEO, who revealed in April that he planned to step down. He has also been appointed executive director of NBN Co's board.

Rue joined NBN Co in July 2014.

“With the network construction moving through a critical phase en route to completion in 2020, the board considered Stephen’s experience, including at NBN Co, and skills in financial, operational and project management to be especially well suited to the challenge,” said Dr Ziggy Switkowski, chair of NBN Co’s board.

NBN Co said that with the rollout of the NBN due to be completed within two years and the “unique nature” of the network “the Board concluded that an internal candidate with firsthand experience of driving change and improvement throughout the company would be best placed to help ensure all Australians have access to fast broadband by 2020”

“I am very pleased that one of my senior executives has been selected and will follow me in this exciting role,” Morrow said. “Stephen has been an outstanding team member and is a very popular choice for this challenging role. I warmly congratulate Stephen and wish him well.”

As NBN Co CEO, Rue will receive a base salary of $1.8 million as well as a potential 50 per cent annual bonus dependent on achieving “key milestones”.

Rue will be the company’s third CEO.

Morrow, a former CEO of Vodafone, was announced as NBN Co CEO in December 2013 following the departure of the company’s inaugural CEO, Mike Quigley, earlier that year.

Morrow’s appointment came as the government directed NBN Co to shift from a pure-fibre fixed-line network to a ‘multi-technology mix’, following Labor's loss at the 2013 federal election. The outgoing CEO has overseen the expansion of fixed-line technologies used in the rollout to include hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC), fibre to the node (FTTN) and, most recently, fibre to the curb (FTTC).

NBN Co last week revealed that it had met its revenue target for FY18 although not its activation target of 4.4 million premises: The company ended FY18 with more than 4,035,000 active end users on the National Broadband Network.

The shortfall in active premises follows a decision late last year to pause the sale of HFC sales while it worked on addressing performance problems.

In a statement, communications minister Senator Mitch Fifield and finance minister Senator Mathias Cormann — NBN Co’s shareholder ministers — welcomed Rue’s appointment.

The ministers paid tribute to Morrow “for his exemplary leadership and vision at the helm of NBN over the past four years.”

“The hallmark of Mr Morrow’s leadership is the 4.2 million connected NBN services across Australia, virtually all of which were achieved under his tenure,” the duo said in a statement.

The government said that to “ensure continuity at the board level as the NBN prepares for the post-rollout phase” it is reappointing Kerry Schott and Shirley In’t Veld as non-executive directors of NBN Co for further terms of three years.

“Labor does not consider the appointment of a permanent NBN CEO this close to the election to be appropriate, particularly given the dysfunctional state of the Turnbull government,” said shadow communications minister Michelle Rowland.

“We have made our view clear that the appointment of the CEO should have been an interim one,” the Labor MP said.