English business executive. As chair and chief executive of the ailing UK computer firm ICL in 1985, he restructured the company and negotiated its link-up with STC and 80% purchase by the Japanese computer company Fujitsu. In 1996 Bonfield became chief executive of British Telecom (now BT). He promoted BT's transformation from a telephone company into a global communications group, but stiff competition and debts of £30 billion forced a radical £10-billion restructuring of the company in 2000. Continued difficulties in 2001 led to his decision to resign from the company, with effect from January 2002. Bonfield was awarded the CBE in 1989 and knighted in 1996. He is currently chair of the supervisory board of NXP Semiconductors; a director of Sony Corporation, Ericsson, Mentor Graphics Corporation Inc., and TSMC; a non-executive director of Dubai International Capital and Actis Capital LLP; and a member of the advisory boards of Citigroup International, Longreach Group, Sony Corporation, and New Venture Partners LLP. He is also vice-president of the British Quality Foundation and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.
After an attempted merger with MCI Communications failed in 1997, Bonfield promoted BT's international aims with a joint business telecom venture in 1998 with AT&T. In 1999 he bought controlling stakes in European telecommunications concerns, including German Viag Interkom (£12 billion), and minority stakes in overseas operators, such as Japan Telecom (£600 million). He bought out Securicor's stake in Cellnet (£3 billion), and acquired third generation (3G) mobile phone licences in the UK (£4 billion).
Bonfield's restructuring split BT's UK fixed line operation into retail and wholesale arms, and created four product-structured international businesses: Ignite (a European broadband data business); BTOpenworld (Internet operations); BT Wireless (wireless and mobile phone investments); and Yell (Yellow Pages). Subsequently BT Wireless was spun off and rebranded as MMO2, and Yell was put up for sale.
However, plans to float off minority interests in BT Wireless and Yell were abandoned, compounding BT's difficulties in 2001. Bonfield faced investor pressure to step down, exacerbated by a Sunday Telegraph report in April 2001 that he had negotiated a ‘golden parachute’ worth £5 million if BT was taken over.
Bonfield was born in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, educated at Hitchin Boys Grammar School, and graduated from Loughborough University of Technology with an honours degree in engineering. Bonfield started his career with Texas Instruments in 1966, establishing a wide experience base in semiconductors and computers in Europe, the USA, and the Far East before becoming a US divisional director in 1974. He joined the board of ICL in 1981, becoming managing director in 1984, chair and chief executive 1985. With the link up of ICL and STC in 1985, he was appointed deputy chief executive of STC.
Bonfield was recruited to BT by its then chair, English executive Iain Vallance. In 1997, not long after his arrival, WorldCom took over the US telecom group MCI, with which BT had been planning a merger. Although BT made a $3 billion profit on the sale of its MCI stake, the merger failure damaged the company's international strategy at the time.