France Tel’s Richard wins board backing to continue in role

Stephane Richard will continue in his role as chief executive of France Telecom-Orange after winning a vote of confidence from the operator’s board members on Monday.

Richard has been charged with fraud relating to his time at France’s finance ministry five years ago.

Uncertainty over his future at France Telecom (Paris, France) had grown after France’s government, which owns a 27% stake in the operator, said the board would need to consider his position in light of the alleged offences.

Stephane Richard will continue in his role as chief executive of France Telecom-Orange after winning a vote of confidence from the operator’s board members on Monday.

Richard has been charged with fraud relating to his time at France’s finance ministry five years ago.

Uncertainty over his future at France Telecom (Paris, France) had grown after France’s government, which owns a 27% stake in the operator, said the board would need to consider his position in light of the alleged offences.

Nevertheless, Francois Hollande, the country’s president, backed him during a television interview on Sunday night and said the state’s three representatives on the board of 15 would vote in favor of his continuing to lead the company.

Other board members must evidently have also lent their support to the beleaguered chief executive.

Earlier, he was reported to have won over three of France Telecom’s biggest trade unions, according to the Financial Times.

“The board has decided to reassert its full confidence in Stephane Richard and his ability to effectively meet the numerous challenges facing Orange with the same energy as ever in the best interests of the company, its employees, its customers and its shareholders,” said France Telecom in a statement.

“In particular, the board considers that the legal measures affecting Stephane Richard do not impede his ability to fully and effectively lead Orange as its chairman and chief executive,” it continued.

Even so, the board has appointed Bernard Dufau, an independent board member, “to follow the situation”, indicating there is some nervousness about the charges against Richard and the potential impact on the company.

The case against Richard relates to an arbitration dispute in 2008, when Bernard Tapie, a businessman and supporter of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, received a €400 million ($533 million) payout following a dispute with the French state.