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Colt Group legal chief Saphra departs following structural review

Colt Group’s longstanding group general counsel Robin Saphra (pictured) has left the company following an internal structural review. He is succeeded by Caroline Griffin Pain, who becomes company secretary and legal counsel.

The departure of the telcoms provider’s high-profile legal chief follows a turbulent period for the company which issued a profit warning in 2014 amid a European telecoms market that has been hit by regulatory price cuts. Colt kick-started a review last year, saying it wanted to reduce the amount of senior executives as well as ‘simplify the business’ in order to return to strong cash generation.

Subsequently New York-based Fidelity, Colt’s largest shareholder, offered to acquire shares it did not already own in the British information provider, in a deal valued at £1.5bn last summer.

Such an agreement meant the London-listed company was made private last September. Saphra is understood to have left the company in recent weeks, while in September chief executive Rakesh Bhasin stepped down and was succeeded by executive vice president of network services, Carl Grivner earlier this month.

Saphra created and led Colt’s 50-strong international legal, commercial and regulatory team, and pursued alternative models with an offshore Indian legal services hub to deliver cost savings.

Saphra’s most high-profile initiative was signing Baker & McKenzie as Colt’s principal adviser on a fixed annual contract worth £1m a year in 2012, cutting down his roster of external advisers from around 60 firms to just three. The deal significantly reduced legal spend, which was roughly estimated at around €12m per year. Other favoured firms includes DLA Piper and Greenberg Traurig Maher.

With its last contract expiring at the end of 2015, in June Colt extended Baker & McKenzie’s role as its preferred legal adviser for an additional year ahead of a planned evaluation of how legal team chooses outside counsel. The renewed term officially started this month.

Saphra has spent nearly 20 years in-house, starting out as a legal and regulatory director for One2One in 1997, and moving to various senior roles at companies including T-Mobile International, BTG, DotDosh, and Emirates International Telecommunications before joining Colt in 2005.

Meanwhile new legal chief Griffin Pain joined Colt as company secretary in 2005 from a Reuters joint venture named Radianz. She is responsible for corporate governance, and also deals with whistleblowing and ethics issues while responsible for implementing Colt’s anti-bribery programme. She will now oversee the agreement with Baker & McKenzie, which is run by relationship partner and telecommunications head Peter Strivens.