French president Francois Hollande has said the government backs Stephane Richard (pictured), a show of support that is likely to keep the France Telecom CEO in his job. The company’s board is meeting today (17 June) to decide Richard’s fate.
Speaking in a television interview, Hollande said: “As long as he can function as chief executive, he should stay”, in comments reported by Bloomberg.
“If his legal problems one day prevent him carrying out his functions, then the conditions will have changed,” he said.
Hollande said the three representatives of the French government on the company’s board will support Richard at the meeting. The government holds a 27 per cent stake in France Telecom.
Richard was last week put under investigation by a French court for his part in an arbitration case that took place while he was in government.
The government had previously said the company would have to consider the outcome of the legal case in its decision, casting doubt on Richard’s position. Hollande’s outright support strengthens the CEO.
He already has some support from other board members, including the representative of employee shareholders.
Richard is likely to gain majority support among the 15-strong company board.
In the same television interview, Hollande also ruled out any imminent sale of the government’s stake in France Telecom. He said the share price was not high enough to make such a transaction worthwhile.
The same argument applied to the government’s stake in GDF Suez, he said. The government would like to raise funds to fund investment in technology and innovation.