Chris Gent

By: Mick Yates

With the much-hyped 3g telephony still only an incomplete network launched by 3, Sir Chris Gent's unexpected departure from Vodafone at the end of this month has come as a surprise to the industry. Under his control, Vodafone has grown from a mid-sized British company, into the world's largest mobile operator.

The subscriber base has grown from 4 million, 7 years ago to 120 million today! A major policy of acquisition has seen companies such as Airtouch - acquired in a coup that trumped the giant Bell Atlantic - added to the Vodafone group. The world's largest ever hostile take over bid in 2000 added Mannesmann to the Vodafone group. The price paid was outrageous, but Vodafone shares made up a high percentage of the costs.

Chris Gent has taken huge risks to build Vodafone into one of the world's top 10 companies, and has brought the company through difficult times as mobile telcomms struggle in the market, with the lanuch of 3g increasingly far away. Despite the current crisis, and the write off of 3g licence fees by rival MMO2, Vodafone unveiled higher than anticipated full year results. Gent is certainly quitting while he is ahead, leaving his successor, Arun Sarin, with a hard act to follow. A visionary leader prepared to take risks to achieve his aims.

Zoë Williams