Third man moves in at France Telecom

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The Independent Online
PARIS - Michel Bon, who takes over as head of France's state-owned giant, France Telecom, this week, arrives at a particularly difficult time, both for the company and for the French government, writes Mary Dejevsky. His whole career suggests, however, that he will prove easier for ministers to deal with than either of the two men he succeeds.

The third head of the world's fourth-largest communications company in as many weeks, Mr Bon has a standard French career path for such a post. Aged 52, a graduate of the elite business school, ENA, he has switched several times between the private and public sector, heading distribution at the supermarket chain, Carrefour, before being appointed two years ago to head the state employment agency, ANPE.

Mr Bon is the government's third choice to run France Telecom. The first choice, Noel Forgeard, a director of the Matra defence group, turned the job down summarily. The second, Francois Henrot, resigned last Friday before he had taken up the post, officially for "personal reasons." But this followed reports that the government had given trade union leaders an assurance that any change to France Telecom's statute could be postponed until after January 1998, the European Union deadline for telecoms liberalisation.