Frontier CEO Nick Jeffery on his telecom turnaround
Billboards with bold text reading "Better. Faster. 100% Fiber" and "Building Gigabit America" dot I-95 in Connecticut. These are the new taglines of Frontier Communications as part of its turnaround story, CEO Nick Jeffery tells Axios.
Why it matters: Frontier filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2020. Since Jeffery started in March 2021, the veteran telecom executive has been tasked with regrowing the business amid increasing demand for high-speed internet and rising competition with other telecoms.
- "The opportunity is to turn Frontier from what it was in the past, which is your grandfather's telephone company, into what I think it can be in the future, which is a modern, agile, fast-moving technology company," Jeffery says.
Context: Before joining Frontier, Jeffery served as CEO of Vodafone UK for nearly five years and had been with Vodafone since 2004.
- "The brand really sucked," Jeffery says. "Everything was broken. Five years later on, it's now the second-biggest cash generator in the group."
- "There are many similarities between Frontier as a company and Vodafone UK as a company," he says. "We need to update IT. We need to improve customer care. We need to increase distribution. We need to rejuvenate the brand."
State of play: Jeffery was enticed to join Frontier after a call with John Stratton, a Verizon veteran who's executive chairman of Frontier's board.
- His motivations included a desire to work in the U.S. again and its low fiber penetration of about 30%.
- Under Jeffery's leadership, Frontier named a new board and executive team, including AT&T's Veronica Bloodworth as chief network officer, Arcosa's Scott Beasley as CFO, Audible's John Harrobin as head of consumer and Verizon's Alan Gardner as chief people officer.
What they're saying: New Street's Jonathan Chaplin says he measures Frontier's success on its goal of deploying fiber to 10 million locations by 2025 and selling fiber there.
- "Execution on both fronts have been strong so far," Chaplin says. "It's the team that makes us confident that Frontier will succeed. Success hinges on execution. Execution hinges on the team."
Of note: The FTC sued Frontier in May 2021 over allegedly not delivering the internet speeds it promised to consumers. The parties agreed to a settlement this past May in which Frontier had to pay $8.5 million to California and $250,000 distributed to Frontier customers in California.
The bottom line: "We're gonna keep on with the hard graft of building fiber as fast as we can, selling it as actively as we can, really improving customer care, becoming more efficient and delivering what I hope is going to be the net of this, which is a truly great American turnaround story," Jeffery says.