‘King of cost-cutting’ buys major chunk of BT: Billionaire Sotheby’s owner Patrick Drahi becomes biggest investor in telecoms giant with 12% stake
- Patrick Drahi’s company Altice has taken a 12.1 per cent stake in BT
- Mr Drahi said the phone provider is well placed to deliver Government targets
- He said the network could be extended to benefit millions of households in UK
Sotherby auction house’s billionaire owner has bought a major chunk of BT to become the biggest investor in the telecoms giant.
Patrick Drahi’s company Altice today revealed it has taken a 12.1 per cent stake in the former state-run phone provider.
Mr Drahi has said BT is well-placed to deliver Government targets on rolling out broadband to British homes.
He added: ‘BT has a significant opportunity to upgrade and extend its full-fibre broadband network to bring substantial benefits to millions of households across the UK.’
Mr Drahi has been buying into European and US telecoms companies since the early 2000s when he founded Altice.
Patrick Drahi’s (pictured) company Altice today revealed it has taken a 12.1 per cent stake in the former state-run phone provider
Over the last two decades he has grown the company into a telecoms giant, but also gained a reputation as the king of cost-cutting.
So much so that unions at French company SFR claimed their members started facing shortages of both printer and toilet paper after Altice took over.
Altice itself defends its position as a prudent one. It said by cutting costs now you can increase profits and free up money to invest further down the line.
In 2019 Mr Drahi ventured into the art world with a £2.6billion ($3.7billion) deal for Sotheby’s.
A 12.1 per cent share in BT will not give Mr Drahi the control he needs to single-handedly push through changes at the UK company.
Mr Drahi has said BT is well-placed to deliver Government targets on rolling out broadband to British homes (file image)
He assured investors today that he has no plans to take over the entire firm and was keen to stress that he believes the company’s managers are on the right track.
BT said: ‘BT Group notes the announcement from Altice of their investment in BT and their statement of support for our management and strategy.
‘We welcome all investors who recognise the long-term value of our business and the important role it plays in the UK. We are making good progress in delivering our strategy and plan.’
Patrick Drahi: The ‘king of cost-cutting’ who left a French company with a toilet paper shortage
Moroccan-born billionaire Patrick Drahi’s cost-cutting measures have not always gone down brilliantly with the company’s he took over.
In 2017 Mr Drahi’s personal fortune took a nosedive when he took on dozens of telecoms companies in a short period of time.
Altice had a debt burden of £43billion which made it vulnerable and caused investors to flee. Shares were dumped and Mr Drahi suffered.
But it seems he has since bounced back, as Altice, the company he founded in 2001, buys a 12.1 per cent share in BT, Britain’s largest telecoms company.
Mr Drahi is infamous for sacking up to 30 per cent of staff at the firms he acquires. At French firm SFR his measures were so stringent staff did not have enough printer or toilet paper.
One former supplier, who worked with Numericable – a French cable operator founded by Mr Drahi – before the acquisition of SFR, said in 2016: ‘Patrick Drahi is a real cost-cutter — a real one. He hates duplication.’
In 2017 Patrick Drahi’s (pictured in 2016) personal fortune took a nosedive when he took on dozens of telecoms companies in a short period of time
Mr Drahi’s business career began when he and a US-born partner convinced mayors in southern France to allow them to lay cable for television in their towns.
The partners sold the company to John C. Malone’s UPC and were paid in stocks. Mr Drahi later sold his position for £34.4million and went on to found Altice, which he used to buy up European cable companies.
In 2013, Mr Drahi founded the international news channel i24news, which is based in Israel.
Altice bought a 70 per cent stake in US cable company Suddenlink Communications, which was then valued at £6.4billion, in 2015.
In the same year he bought Cablevision from the Dolan family, which turned sour in 2018 when the Dolans sued over alleged violations in the terms of sale.
More recently, in June 2019, auction house Sotheby’s announced it was being acquired by Mr Drahi.
Last September, Mr Drahi offered £2.1billion (€2.5billion) to minority shareholders of Altice in order to take the company private.
On March 5 2021, Mr Drahi listed his net worth at £8.2billion ($11.7billion), ranking him 248 on the Billionaires 2020 list.
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