When Sipho Maseko first took on the role of CEO of South Africa's largest fixed-line operator last April Fool's Day, he told me it was a "graveyard assignment."
He wasn't kidding. His company, Telkom Group, reported a 11.6 billion rand ($1.2 billion) net loss last week, the second-biggest loss ever for a company on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Maseko also faces strikes by workers.
Now he's trying to inject life into the mostly state-owned company, telling investors he's "raising the metabolic rate" of his managers, and getting "the right bums on the right seats." He also wants a network "built on steroids" to deliver high-speed broadband and other services into South African homes.
He has to now turn those words into money. Maseko, who came from Vodacom Group Ltd., South Africa's No. 1 phone company, doesn't want to join the CEO graveyard. Telkom has had four chief executives in three years.