After 43 years, Telstra loses COO Rocca


43-year Telstra veteran and current chief operations officer Michael Rocca has resigned from Telstra, the telco revealed today, and will be replaced with IBM executive and former head of Big Blue’s Global Services joint venture in Australia, Brendon Riley.

The telco noted Rocca’s departure in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange this morning, also noting it had nabbed former St George chief executive Paul Fegan to lead a new strategy unit, and that its public policy and communications chief David Quilty had resigned.

In a statement, Telstra chief executive David Thodey thanked Rocca for his time at the telco. The executive has only held his current role since November 2009, taking it up in the wake of the departure of former Telstra COO Greg Winn, but Rocca has been with Telstra for more than four decades, weathering the telco’s many internal changes in that time.

Rocca will remain at Telstra for a period to assist wth the reconstruction process at the telco following the floods in Queensland and Victoria.

His replacement, Brendon Riley, is currently IBM’s general manager of its Northeast Europe division, but was also previously the chief executive of IBM Global Services Australia — a former joint venture between Telstra, IBM and Lend Lease.

Thodey himself also has substantial experience at IBM, helming Big Blue’s Australian operations for some years before migrating to a senior role at Telstra.

“Brendon has global experience leading large workforces, building effective teams and managing networks and service delivery,” said Thodey. “He will being extensive experience, demonstrated leadership qualities, and knowledge of the industry, including network-based applications and services, at a time of great opportunity for Telstra.”

For his part, Riley said he was “delighted” to be joining Telstra.

Telstra also noted that Paul Fegan — a 30-year financial services veteran who was formerly the chief executive of St George — would join the telco to lead a new business unit combining public policy, communictaions, corporate strategy and mergers and acquisitions. These functions were previously led by David Quilty, who Telstra said has decided to leave the company, and Robert Nason, who is leading Telstra’s Project New internal transformation project and will continue to do so.

“Paul is a highly regarded executive with a proven track record in delivering improved customer experience, building strong teams with a customer-centric focus and delivering solid returns for shareholders,” said Thodey. “He will draw on his domestic and global experience in corporate strategy, sales, operations, product development, customer experience, marketing and brand, having successfully led a number of large-scale customer-facing businesses and change management programmes.

Image credit: Telstra


  1. Forty three years takes him back to 1968, pre-dating 1975 when the Postmaster General’s Office was split, forming into Telecom Australia and Australia Post.

    He really has been there a long time! I knew he’d been around forever, but never realised he went THAT far back.

  2. Rocca oversaw one of the largest network transformations in the world. The organisation within Telstra he ran was by many measures itself the 4th largest Australian company and accounted for effectively half the entire organistion.

    He was regarded by multiple CEO’s, Boards and Governments as the safest pair of hands to manage Australia’s networks during periods of unprecedented convergence and deregulation. His record can be seen in vastly improved service metrics as reported by regulators as he shifted the organisation from a public service ‘friday afternoon’ culture to a productivity based and customer focussed workforce. He also created a national telco contractor workforce that created thousands and thousands of jobs. Despite all the criticisms Telstra will forever receive, Rocca’s contribution to Telstra and his leagcy to Australians will be far reaching. Telstra just lost an enormous capability.

    • “Written, spoken and authorised by the Telstra Party, Melbourne”

      Seriously though…I do agree…I think after 43 years, and a stellar effort as you describe, he deserves the kudos, and a chance to slow down a little.

  3. I dont work for Telstra. I am in court with Telstra actually. I worked with Rocca briefly in the late 90’s. I admire him as a leader and I remain a fan of his.

    I was motivated to put a comment here by the appalling and opportunistic media release they issued. Rocca himself, as I remember him, would be embarrassed but his coverage and my comments. The Telstra annual reports will show you how much he got paid compared to the other fly by nighter GMD’s.

    The Telstra media release and media relations department should be awarded the most gutless and opportunistic public statement of the year….but then again they win that every year.

    Look at the name at the bottom of it.

    Rocca is a guy that will get honoured for services to the country and his record, see regulator and parliamentary reporting, his record stands on its own without my fluff.

Comments are closed.