2degrees founder ousted

Simon "Tex" Edwards, who co-founded 2degrees, has lost an application for an interim injunction to stop his role as a strategist at the upstart mobile phone network from being disestablished.

Two Degrees chief executive Eric Hertz, in correspondence contained in the Employment Relations Authority's (ERA's) decision, referred to the role of strategist performed by Edwards, a former banker who is well-known in the New Zealand telecommunications industry.

"Strategy development is a responsibility of all members of the senior management team and in particular the head of strategy and business development and marketing function," Hertz said.

"As a consequence of this, and the evolution of the company, it is my belief that there is no longer a place in our structure for the stand-alone role of strategist which you hold," he said.

Hertz then proposed that Edwards" strategic role be disestablished.

Edwards was an investor in Two Degrees' precursor, Econet Wireless, and is a minority shareholder in the company.

In April, Edwards was told by Two Degrees that his job was to go.

In May, he filed a personal grievance claim. Further discussions took place in the same month, when he received notice that his employment would expire on July 15.

On June 18, Edwards applied to the ERA for an interim injunction restraining Two Degrees from ending his employment.

In his evidence, Edwards said he needed to remain at Two Degrees to project the value of his investment. Over the last two years he had been in talks with Two Degrees about the sale of the shares and he said Two Degrees had targeted him because of the shareholding.

ERA member Alastair Dumbleton said in the decision that it it could be strongly argued that the role could be disestablished.

"I find on the evidence given for the purpose of this interim application it is strongly arguable that Two Degrees considered, genuinely, that the position was surplus to its needs," Dumbleton said.

Claims brought by Edwards against Two Degrees and Hertz will be investigated by the ERA at a meeting to start on August 22.

Edwards declined to comment to APNZ on the decision "as all matters are before the courts".

Two Degrees is 58 per cent owned by Washington-based Trilogy International Partners, a privately owned company that specialises in wireless telecommunication operations.

Hautaki Trust, representing Maori interests, owns 10 per cent.

The rest of the stock is owned by Tesbrit BV of the Netherlands.


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