Orange chief is ousted in France Telecom shake-up

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Sol Trujillo is to step down as chief executive of Orange, the mobile phone operator, in a radical management shake-up of France Telecom.

Sol Trujillo is to step down as chief executive of Orange, the mobile phone operator, in a radical management shake-up of France Telecom.

The changes are part of a refocusing of the French telephone group on consumer marketing and brands rather than its traditional network business. Mr Trujillo, who has been at the helm of Orange since February last year, will be replaced by Sanjiv Ahuja, who is currently the chief operating officer of the mobile business. He was brought in to Orange in April last year.

John Alwood, who is head of Orange UK, will be promoted as well to join a new France Telecom executive committee that will be dominated by management from Orange. France Telecom has decided to focus its efforts on its mobile business and its broadband internet service, Wanadoo.

Under the new structure there will be five separate divisions within France Telecom. The two main ones will be Home, the residential fixed-line business, and Wanadoo, as well as a division called Personal, which is the Orange mobile operation. Other divisions include Enterprise, which is the business and corporate division, a distribution operation which includes a retail chain, and International, which is France Telecom's Polish business.

As a result of the shake-up there will be six changes to the executive committee of France Telecom which equates to a third of the existing executive committee members. Orange will have three representatives on the committee, with the other divisions having just one. Mr Trujillo is leaving the company, having seen France-Telecom buy in the minority shareholdings of Orange over the past few months as well as taking full ownership of the Wanadoo internet business. The company last night said Mr Trujillo's exit from the business had been agreed for sometime and was part of an ongoing strategy.

The restructuring of France-Telecom which will be detailed today represents the biggest change the company has undergone under Thierry Breton, the group chief executive. The changes are aimed at making the French utility much more customer focused in a bid to move away from its traditional state owned image.

The markets for both mobile telephony and internet services is becoming increasingly fierce, with several pan-European players emerging, particularly in the mobile business. The move to sever Mr Trujillo's association with Orange will end months of speculation about his future at the business. Rumours have been rife in the press in recent months that he had fallen out with Mr Breton although both parties have strenuously denied any rift.