Stéphane Richard, CEO of Orange, goes in the direction of the State, the group’s largest shareholder, by announcing that he would like to separate the functions of chairman of the board of directors and general manager at the head of the operator.
In May 2022, another mandate than that of the President of the Republic will also come to an end: that of the CEO of Orange. Currently held by Stéphane Richard, and since 2011, this role could evolve next year, with a separation of the functions of Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer. A change desired by Stéphane Richard, who announced in Sunday Newspaper that he would be a candidate for succession at the head of the operator, but only as chairman. The CEO is therefore in line with the State, the group’s largest shareholder (23% of the capital and 29.43% of the voting rights at the general meeting), which already expressed in June 2021 his desire to see these functions separate, with the recruitment of an external general manager in the event of the renewal of Stéphane Richard’s term of office as chairman, according to The echoes.
The Tapie case as a backdrop
“I think it’s a good thing if the tandem works. It will naturally be up to Orange shareholders to decide when the time comes”, noted in the columns of the JDD Stéphane Richard, who was re-elected CEO of Orange in 2018. “The governance of large groups, in particular those listed on the stock exchange, has become more complex in recent years. Being the chairman of the board is a function that takes up more and more time for me”, he also confided. Remember that many operators believe they are undervalued in the markets because of a gap between shareholders’ expectations in terms of growth and heavy investments to be made in telecoms. Stéphane Richard added feel “a particular responsibility towards this group”, which would have many “challenges to be met in the near future”, like “face the Gafam, develop new professions such as cybersecurity and financial services, continue our development in Africa”.
Stéphane Richard’s candidacy depends above all on a decision to be rendered by the Paris Court of Appeal on October 6, 2021 in the context of the Tapie case. Stéphane Richard, former chief of staff of the Minister of the Economy Christine Lagarde (2007-2009), is indeed suspected of “complicity in fraud” and of “complicity in embezzlement of public funds” in the controversial 2008 arbitration which awarded 403 million euros to Bernard Tapie to settle his dispute with Crédit Lyonnais. He claims to wait “the decision with serenity”, pointing out that “this [qu’on lui] reproach, it is to have worked so that this arbitration is carried out, whereas the decision to have resorted to it is not called into question in itself, and that it was moreover taken by the capacity Politics”. In the event of a conviction, the hypothesis of a fourth term at the head of Orange could therefore prove to be compromised.
2.6 billion euros in net losses in the first half of 2021
Stéphane Richard also ensures that Orange is taking measures to ensure that the breakdown of emergency numbers, which caused the loss of 11% of calls made to 15, 17, 18 and 112 on June 2, 2021, “cannot happen again”. He stressed, however, that“no system is 100% reliable” and “all countries – and Switzerland very recently” experience identical crises.
Despite revenue growth of 1.5% to 20.9 billion euros, Orange recorded 2.6 billion euros in net losses in the first half of 2021. And this mainly because of the Spanish market, where the group claims to suffer the “deterioration of the competitive market environment” and the “persistence of the health crisis which is delaying the economic rebound”.
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