France Telecom hires sci-fi author to plot a new future

Liz Vaughan-Adams
Friday 13 December 2013 05:11
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France Telecom yesterday named Thierry Breton as its new chairman and chief executive, paving the way for a massive financial restructuring to fix the debt-laden company's balance sheet.

Mr Breton, who has a reputation as a turnaround specialist, was credited with transforming the fortunes of both Thomson Multimedia and the computer group Bull and had been tipped as the front-runner for the job.

The 47-year-old former maths teacher and science fiction writer will officially resign from his current post of chairman and chief executive of Thomson next Tuesday.

His appointment, which was widely expected, comes almost three weeks after his predecessor, Michel Bon, tendered his resignation following intense pressure in the face of a mounting crisis at the company.

Mr Breton's first job will be to sketch out a plan to cut France Telecom's €70bn (£44bn) debt pile to more manageable levels and the married father of three has given himself two months to come up with a rescue plan.

He is expected to examine all options to restore the French telecom group's fortunes including a rescue rights issue, which could be as high as €15bn, as well as selling assets. The French finance ministry has said it will take all necessary measures to protect the group from financing problems.

Mr Breton graduated from the École Supérieure d'Electricite and taught maths and information technology at New York's French high school at the age of 24. Two years later, he founded his own software company, Forma Systemes, and, at 31, helped create Futuroscope, an open-air science park in the region of Poitou-Charentes. He has also written eight books.

Thomson said Charles Dehelly, its chief operating officer, would succeed Mr Breton and named Frank Dangeard, the vice-chairman, as chairman.

Named to France Telecom's board are four civil servants Jean-Pierre Jouyet, treasury director at the Finance Ministry, Bertrand Schneiter, a Finance Ministry official, Henri Serres, the central director of information systems security at the Defence Ministry and Jean-Luc Tavernier, director of forecasting at the Finance Ministry.

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