Vivendi nominates Bernabè to TIM board

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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Former CEO Franco Bernabè is set to return to the board of Telecom Italia as biggest shareholder puts forward candidates

French media group Vivendi is proposing that former Telecom Italia CEO Franco Bernabè return to the Italian operator’s board at its annual shareholder meeting next month.

Vivendi, which is the biggest shareholder with 24%, has included Bernabè in its slate of 10 candidates for board positions.

Bernabè resigned from Telecom Italia – which now operates in the consumer market as TIM, and also owns wholesale carrier Sparkle – in 2013 because the board refused to accept his strategic plan for the company. He was also chair of the GSMA at the time. 

It was understood at the time that he was proposing a strategic split between an infrastructure company, which would own the network, and a services company, which would sell fixed and mobile subscriptions to consumers.

In addition to Bernabè, Vivendi is nominating its CEO, Arnaud de Puyfontaine, to the board, along with its CFO, Hervé Philippe, and its general counsel, Frédéric Crépin. De Puyfontaine is deputy chairman of TIM but it is believed that Vivendi wants him to chair the company. 

Another executive on Vivendi’s list is a British executive, Anna Jones, who was COO of the Hearst publishing business when de Puyfontaine was CEO, and took over from him when he moved to Vivendi three years ago.

When Bernabè was last at Telecom Italia, the biggest shareholder was Telefónica and it was seen to be ready to take control of the company. Four years later it has been replaced by Vivendi, which also owns 30% of Italian media group Mediaset, though that is still controlled by the investment company of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Vivendi’s long term strategy for TIM remains unclear, though some conspiracy theorists believe it has a plan to sell the Italian operator to Orange. However, last year Orange denied there was a 'secret deal' with Vivendi.