Cantillon: First Ireland, then the world for new Vodafone UK chief

There is sure to be plenty of people in Ireland sending congratulatory text messages to Jeroen Hoencamp this weekend, after he was named as the new chief executive of Vodafone UK.

Hoencamp left his role as head of the company’s much smaller Irish operation about six months ago.

Ireland has proved to be something of a nursery for senior executives within the Vodafone group.

The hotseat at its Leopardstown base appears to be more of a springboard to better things.


A decade ago, Paul Donovan left as its Irish CEO to head up its operations in ten markets across Europe and Asia, although he later left and was Eircom chief executive until last year.

Charles Butterworth, an Englishman parachuted in to run the Irish division at the tail end of the boom, returned to blighty for a group role, although he,too, has since moved on.

Vodafone is not the only multinational where the bosses of Irish divisions end up climbing the ladder.

What about Dana Strong? This time last year she was chief executive of UPC Ireland. After its parent group, Liberty Global, paid £15.5 billion to buy Virgin Media, Strong was installed as chief operations officer of the British cable giant.

Alex Ricard arrived in Ireland on the day the recession was officially declared in 2008 to head up Irish Distillers. Now he is deputy chief executive of the Pernod Ricard group. John Kennedy steered Diageo through some tough times here, as sales of Guinness lost their fizz. He now runs Diageo's operations across western Europe.

Or Graham Sutherland, the former boss of BT Ireland? He now heads up BT Business back at HQ in the UK. Colm Long opened Facebook's Irish office in 2009. Now he runs its global user operatons from its Californian headquarters.

The country’s business diaspora doesn’t just include Irish-Americans with romantic notions of the old sod but little knowledge of what’s happening on the ground here.

It also includes Irish-born executives and many who were born abroad, who know the business environment here intimately but now ply their trade across the globe. Those links in particular could be better utilised by the Government during Ireland’s long, slow, painful crawl towards recovery.