• Sun. Nov 28th, 2021

Orange: the battle for Stéphane Richard’s succession begins – archyde


Nov 25, 2021

In the aftermath of his conviction in the Tapie affair, which forced him to return his apron as CEO of Orange, he does not hide his ” anger “. On the air France Inter, this Thursday morning, Stéphane Richard shared his ” incomprehension “ following this court decision. Convicted of “Complicity in embezzlement of public funds” in the 2008 arbitration case between Bernard Tapie and Crédit Lyonnais, which allowed the deceased businessman to pocket more than 400 million euros, the manager believes he is paying the price of a choice that did not come from him. Chief of staff to the Minister of the Economy Christine Lagarde at the time of the facts, he recalls that he did not participate in the fraudulent arbitration. And, above all, that the decision to use this process to settle the dispute did not come from him.

At the time, it was “A technical and political decision”, he insists. “Everyone can see that this idea did not come from me”, he says. Way of returning the ball to the government of the time, and in particular to Christine Lagarde and Nicolas Sarkozy, then at the Elysee Palace. “Is it normal that a chief of staff, in a system like this, actually pay the consequences of this decision?”, he says. Me, I do not believe so. “

Not sure about the state sweeps the option of a CEO

Anyway, and even if he appeals to cassation, this court decision forces him to throw in the towel. After eleven years at the head of the incumbent operator, Stéphane Richard will be leaving Orange no later than January 31. According to our information, the State, the operator’s largest shareholder, did not want to let him go until the end of his mandate next May. Bruno Le Maire, the Minister of the Economy, had indicated that he should leave in the event of a conviction. From a political point of view, the government wants above all to avoid being accused of favoring the powerful, in a context of mistrust of the political and economic elites. That said, the campaign for the succession of Stéphane Richard is now open.

The cards are completely reshuffled. In the event of release, Stéphane Richard wanted to remain in the governance of Orange, but only as chairman. In this scheme, it would have been necessary to add a general manager. In recent weeks, the hypothesis of a person coming from outside seemed privileged, in order to preserve a distance between the two functions. This scenario has, of course, been shattered.

Dulac, Fernandez, Trabbia and Fallacher, the internal favorites

For the next generation, everything will depend on desiderata of State. Today, the executive is generally favorable, in the companies where it is in the capital, to a separation of the functions between the presidency and the general management. But it is not at all said, in the case of Orange, that he is sweeping the option of a CEO if he finds a suitable person. One name always comes up: that of Nicolas Dufourcq, CEO of Bpifrance. His interest in Orange is not new. He could take advantage of Stéphane Richard’s departure to try his luck.

Other names have been circulating for months. Internally, that of Fabienne Dulac is in a good position. Patron Saint of Orange France, she is responsible for the operator’s primary market, and knows all the inner workings of the house. Ramon Fernandez, the CFO, also has ambitions. He had some disagreements with Stéphane Richard in various cases in recent months. Its position and seniority give it solid legitimacy. There is also Michaël Trabbia, the director of innovation. He is loyal to Stéphane Richard, of whom he was chief of staff from 2014 to 2016. From public affairs to the management of Orange Belgium, he has been chaining responsibilities at the operator for ten years. Let us also quote Jean-François Fallacher, at the head of Spain, who is a “man of difficult situations”.

Some elders might come out of the woods

Some “ex” Orange could also try a “come back”. Like Pierre Louette, former Deputy CEO of Orange, who left the group in 2018 to become CEO of Les Echos-Le Parisien. His name was cited at the time to take over from Stéphane Richard. There is also Delphine Ernotte, former boss of Orange France and now at the head of France Télévisions. She also aspired, several years ago, to be caliph instead of the caliph. Although she recently told the newspaper The world that she felt ” very well “ at France Télévisions. The bets are open.