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CP Group scion, now CEO, will step down as mobile unit chief

Billionaire's son seeks experience while running Thai conglomerate

Charoen Pokphand Group CEO Suphachai Chearavanont

BANGKOK -- The newly appointed CEO of Charoen Pokphand Group indicated Thursday he will vacate his post as chief executive of the group's telecommunications arm in order to focus fully on steering one of Thailand's biggest conglomerates.

Suphachai Chearavanont was promoted to group CEO while eldest brother Soopakij Chearavanont assumed the role of chairman as of Jan. 9. Both took over positions held by their billionaire father, Dhanin Chearavanont, who will remain on the management team as the senior chairman.

"There is still a lot I have to learn" about managing the organization, Suphachai told the Nikkei Asian Review Thursday while attending a telecom forum here. He intends to build experience before his father retires from the front line of management in a decade.

Suphachai, the youngest son, currently serves double duty as CEO of True, the third-largest mobile service provider in Thailand. The unit had been a perennial money loser due to its late entry into the industry. But under Suphachai, the carrier found its way into the black in 2014 by using an infusion from China Mobile to pay off debts. True is expanding its customer base through large investments in fourth-generation mobile communications.

Suphachai will remain on True's board of directors, and he said someone outside the group's founding family likely will succeed him as the telecom's CEO. Such core listed affiliates as Charoen Pokphand Foods and convenience store operator CP All are led by those outside of the Chearavanont clan. True will announce the new management team as soon as March after consulting with China Mobile, the second-largest stakeholder.

In keeping with his philosophy that relatives generally should be kept away from management, Dhanin plans to groom someone outside the family to one day assume the role as group CEO.

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