Editorial: Farewell Eric Hertz

Eric and Kathy Hertz made a significant contribution to New Zealand through their involvement in the telecommunications industry

Words like ‘gentleman’ and ‘integrity’ have been used to describe 2degrees CEO Eric Hertz who, together with his wife Kathy, died in a plane crash on March 30. Their bodies were recovered in the weekend.

The couple moved to New Zealand in 2009 when Eric Hertz was appointed to the role by 2degrees’s majority shareholder Trilogy International. Hertz took over the reins a month before the telco launched, and in four years it has gained over a million subscribers and now employs 760 people.

Since the accident, Trilogy International has been quick to act, with its vice president, and chair of 2degrees, Stewart Sheriff taking over as interim CEO. 2degrees board member and Hautaki trustee Antony Royal says the senior management team is capable of seeing the company through the loss of its popular CEO.

Royal says Eric Hertz made a significant contribution to the telecommunications industry and Maori, working with Hautaki Trust to create Maori scholarships and the Te Reo phone. Kathy Hertz supported this vision by helping Maori and Pacific Island students at the Auckland University of Technology.

Telecommunications Carriers Forum CEO David Stone says that Hertz’s death is a great loss, and that he brought a different, broader perspective to the local telecommunications industry. Stone echoed ICT Minister Amy Adams’ observation that Hertz was “an industry gentleman”.

TUANZ CEO Paul Brislen says that without 2degrees “we would be facing a duopoly in mobile telecommunications” and that “the company has changed the landscape of competition for the New Zealand.”

Brislen points out that Eric and Kathy Hertz could have come here, done their job and returned back to the States, but instead they chose to stay.

In an interview with Computerworld last month Eric Hertz said that this country was now home to him, and that the couple had become official New Zealand residents.

He also spoke about the challenges facing 2degrees. Despite a significant investment of $500 million, there is a long way to go. There is the upcoming 4G rollout, a decision on whether to acquire fixed-line capability, and uncertainty about government policy following the announcement of a review of telecommunications law which may include changing how mobile termination rates are regulated.

If it wants Trilogy International to remain an investor in this country, the government will need to think carefully about how it proceeds with the review and the upcoming 700MHz auction that is so critical to 4G/LTE rollouts.

As one industry insider told me, companies are bigger than their CEOs, and that’s certainly true. But Hertz was an advocate for New Zealand in the tough world of international telecommunications. We will miss his voice.

The team at Computerworld sends our condolences to the Hertz and Picone families.

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