Peter Erskine is a marketing man through and through. Prior to being thrust into the limelight in 2001 as the chief executive of the newly floated O2, he had a history of sales appointments under his belt at companies such as Polycell, Colgate Palmolive, and Mars.

He also knows his way around the competition in the mobile phone market. Before joining BT in 1993, he spent three years in marketing at Unitel, a rival mobile phone operator that would become One2One and then T-Mobile.

Mr Erskine’s marketing experience has come to the fore turning around O2’s fortunes since the float. The once-staid brand has become highly visible through a series of high-profile marketing deals that have put the name on to Arsenal football shirts, England rugby shirts and the European Ryder Cup golf team. It will even feature in huge lettering on the roof of the Millennium Dome in south-east London, to be renamed The O2 when it re-opens.

But Mr Erskine is no marketing luvvie – he is described by peers as “down to earth” and someone who does not suffer fools gladly. His pay and bonuses, worth up to £2.5m last year, may have raised eyebrows among investors, but few deny him credit for a turnround at O2 that has exceeded most shareholders’ expectations.

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