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Smith rings as Telefónica GC amid Virgin Media and O2 Megamerger worth £ 31bn

Well-known in-house veteran Edward Smith will leave his role as General Counsel of Telefónica UK after 20 years with the company as telecommunications giants Virgin Media and O2 prepare to close their £ 31 billion merger.

Smith (pictured) joined the company in 2001 as legal advisor to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. His career there spanned a variety of roles including Head of Corporate and Commercial Law and Head of Legal.

He has been General Counsel of O2, owned by Spanish Telefónica, since November 2011 and was appointed to the O2 Executive Committee in 2016. The news of Smith’s departure comes after the $ 31 billion bond between Virgin Media, which is owned by US multinational Liberty Global and O2, received preliminary approval from competition and market regulators earlier this month.

The executive team of the new joint venture was announced on Friday (April 23), including the fact that Enrique Medina Malo, the respected Chief Policy Officer of Telefónica in Madrid, will be its GC.

Smith is often pronounced and has been an integral part of the GC Powerlist UK since its inception. In 2019, he described his leadership style as follows: “I hope people would see me as approachable, informal, and someone who doesn’t do bullshit. I like to think of myself as supportive and, once he’s picked the right person for the job, someone who interferes as little as possible. ‘

Smith shared some of the highlights of his career in a statement: “I joined O2 twenty years ago and was part of the transformation from an unloved collection of assets to a telecommunications super brand. None of the progress was easy and it was a professional privilege to have worked with so many bright, determined, and enthusiastic people along the way.

‘My personal highlights included the creation of the O2 brand, the takeover by Telefónica, the network sharing with Vodafone, the introduction of the iPhone in Great Britain as an exclusive O2 company and, most recently, the joint venture with Virgin Media. The creation of the O2 / Virgin joint venture, which is still subject to regulatory approval, makes perfect sense for O2 and the UK consumers and I am sure it will be a great success. The signing of this contract will give me a great feeling of personal satisfaction, but when the joint venture is formed it will be the right time for me to go and find my next challenge. I am excited about the future. ‘

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