14 December 2012

Zimbabwe: American Appointed New Econet Chairman

ECONET Wireless has appointed an American - Dr James Patrick Myers - as its new chairman to replace outgoing TN Bank founder Mr Tawanda Nyambirai. Mr Nyambirai stepped down this week after selling his entire remaining stake in TN Bank to Econet Wireless Zimbabwe and received a minority stake in the group.

Since TN Bank's founding director and chief executive of Lifestyle Holdings, who has been offered a seat on the Econet Wireless Global board, is now a minority shareholder in the local unit means he is conflicted to continue as Econet Wireless chairman.

His successor is a retired former vice president for Africa of Southwestern Bell, now part of AT&T, the world's largest telecoms company in terms of value.

He also served as the president of Southwestern Bell International Development Africa from 1985 to 1998 and as its executive vice president from 1994 to 1995.

Further, Dr Myers served as the president of JMA Inc from 1991 to 1993. Prior to that, he was president of the Gannon Group Inc from 1979 to 1991.

From 1969 to 1978, Dr Myers was principal of Arthur Young & Company, and from 1965 to 1969, he was an operations research analyst at Texas Instruments Inc.

He is a consultant and has over 30 years of international business experience specialising in the telecommunications industry. Mr Myers is currently the non-executive chairman of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed company York Timber Holdings Limited.

He holds a Bachelor of Administration degree in Mathematics from Texas A&M University, Master of Arts in Mathematical Physics from the University of Arizona, Doctor of Philosophy in Industrial Engineering Research from Texas Tech University.

His first experience with African corporate affairs was when he led the team that acquired MTN South Africa in the early 1990s on behalf of the giant American company before it later sold it.

After that, he led a consortium, which included Malaysia Telecom, that controlled Telkom South Africa for many years.

Dr Myers' appointment follows the resignation of Mr Nyambirai after serving the mobile telecoms firm for about 10 years since joining the group back in 1998.

Mr Nyambirai said Econet had offered him an offer to buy him out of TN Bank and in turn offered him minority stake in the giant telecommunications group.

"The result of the offer is that I will be a minority shareholder in Econet Wireless Zimbabwe as a result of which I cease to be independent," said Mr Nyambirai.

"I have been an independent chairman of Econet and in that regard I discharged my duties as best as I could in all circumstances. But because I will cease to an independent director and an independent chairman, I elected to step down from the board," he said.

Since it will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Econet Wireless when minorities are also bought out, TN Bank would ultimately delist from the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.

But the latest development is a result of the first foray into the TB Bank that Econet Wireless made after acquiring 45 percent stake in the bank on the back of a US$20 million loan facility it had given the bank.

However, the need for ultimate control followed Econet's hunger for a banking institution on the back of tremendous growth in the telecoms operator's mobile based financial service activities, Ecocash.

EcoCash, which processes more than US$300 million a month and growing fast, is currently handling more volumes than most local banks, making a fully fledged financial ally an inevitable prospect.

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