Telefónica, the Spanish telecoms group, on Thursday announced management changes at 02, its European mobile phone subsidiary.

Peter Erskine, chief executive of 02 Europe and a telecoms industry veteran, will step down in January. He will be replaced by Matthew Key, chief executive of 02’s UK mobile business.

Mr Erskine, 57, will serve as a non-executive on Telefónica’s board. He said he would also consider non-executive directorships at other companies but insisted he did not want another executive role.

He said he was not interested in becoming chief executive of BT, the UK’s leading fixed-line phone group.

Ben Verwaayen has been BT chief executive for more than five years, prompting talk in the industry that he could step down in 2008.

Mr Erskine said he was standing down at a time of his choosing, and expressed satisfaction that Telefónica, which bought 02 last year, had accepted his recommendation that Mr Key replace him.

Mr Erskine has led 02 since its demerger from BT in 2001, when it was known as BT Wireless, and also included mobile businesses in Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands.

He said he considered his greatest achievement to be how 02 had thrived, noting how it was given “very little hope” when it was spun off from BT.

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