How the industry went for a Barton

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The ‘characters’ have all gone. And with them a lot of the fun.”

It sounds like some nostalgic utterance from an industry veteran, hanging up his boots. To an extent it is, because it is the final verdict of John Barton, quitting the UK mobile industry after 23 years.

But it is also a statement of fact for Barton, and not one of regret necessarily.

Sure, some of the entrepreneurialism that founded the market has made way for a rush of MBA graduates into multi-national corporations.

But the consumer is better served, and the adventurer spirit of the 1980s and 1990s now finds a place in new emerging fields such as content and service. And Barton is not about to argue differently. “Yes, that’s right. And the ‘characters’ will come again.”

But there were some fast times, and Barton was in the vicinity. Even now, his exit gives Mobile News an excuse to remember with him the spirit and extraordinary money-making – and the boozing and fighting – that characterised this market in its youth, and made it fun to work in.

He easily remembers a maverick young industry full of personalities, parties and people growing fat off huge commissions. It’s a far cry from the cost-cutting, budget-obsessed corporate mission statements that govern today’s scene.

And if you glance at Barton’s CV, it is apparent most of his management roles in this industry have come at edgy new mainstream ventures: network operator Cellnet and Caudwell Group companies Singlepoint and Phones 4U in their early days, and entrant operator Hutchison 3G (3) and debutant vendor LG, both from the East as the UK market reached saturation.

“I never regarded myself as a start-up merchant,” reflects Barton. “Those were just the cards I was dealt. Circumstance has seen me enter companies when the businesses were at a low point. It’s a great challenge to know you’re one of the cogs that turned the company around.”

Full article in Mobile News issue 456 (February 1, 2008).

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