Cesar Alierta, chairman and chief executive officer of Telefonica SA, speaks during an interview in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, June 8, 2010. Telefonica SA last week moved closer to taking charge of Brazil's largest wireless operator after raising the bid for Portugal Telecom SGPS SA's stake in the venture that controls it by 14 percent to 6.5 billion euros ($7.9 billion). Photographer: Jonathan Fickies/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Cesar Alierta

The Chief Executive and Chairman of the Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica, César Alierta, resigned after 16 years in charge. He proposed Chief Operating Officer José María Álvarez-Pallete as his replacement, a suggestion the board of directors approved. César Alierta led the company through a highly productive phase of expansion and record achievements. However, over the past decade the company’s debt has more than doubled to roughly $56 billion.

Telefonica hoped to reduce its debt ratio by selling off British subsidiary O2 to CK Hutchison, but this was blocked by European regulators. Jose María Álvarez-Pallete is now overseeing two potential IPOs. The first is the IPO of Telxius, which runs Telefonica’s wireless towers and submarine cables. The company aims to raise $5 billion from the IPO. The other is the IPO of O2, which is valued at nearly $15 billion dollars. This will enable the company to maintain a stake in the British company. However, Telefonica is talking to private equity firms as well, to see how else to maximise its options.

César Alierta will remain as a member of the board and will head the company’s foundation. Four members of the board have also stepped down, with replacements ready. One of the new board members is Peter Löscher, who previously was the CEO of Siemens AG.