Vivendi Man Genish Formally Named Telecom Italia CEO

Telecom Italia has formally named Amos Genish its new chief executive as French media giant Vivendi tightens its grip on the Italian phone incumbent.

Vivendi's stake in Telecom Italia (TIM) is just 24% but this makes it the company's biggest single shareholder. Besides controlling Telecom Italia's board, it is becoming increasingly influential in shaping the operator's strategy -- to the alarm of its opponents.

Formerly Vivendi's chief convergence officer, Genish has effectively been in charge of Telecom Italia since July when he became its general manager of operations following the departure of former CEO Flavio Cattaneo, who appears to have quit after falling out with Vincent Bolloré, Vivendi's chairman. (See Vivendi's Genish Gets GM Job at Telecom Italia.)

Genish's appointment to the CEO role comes as no surprise following several days of press speculation. Vivendi seems likely to have had him in mind for the leadership role since Cattaneo's position became untenable but held off on naming him CEO amid the growing concern about its influence over Telecom Italia.

Italy's government recently said it believes Vivendi now has effective control of Telecom Italia, although the French conglomerate has denied this.

However, Vivendi CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine only recently replaced Giuseppe Recchi as Telecom Italia's chairman, with Recchi becoming deputy chairman, and Vivendi men now occupy the top two executive positions at the Italian telco.

In a statement on today's move, de Puyfontaine insisted that his long-term goal was to create value for Italy as well as Telecom Italia.

"We have a clear long-term vision: To return TIM to its rightful splendor, making a crucial contribution to the digitalization of the country, the creation of digital Italy, through investment and people," he said. "TIM must have a constructive collaboration with the institutions and regulators: Creating value for TIM means creating value for the country."

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Perhaps hoping to address government concern about Vivendi's influence, de Puyfontaine also announced that Vivendi outsider Recchi would henceforth take full responsibility for Sparkle, Telecom Italia's services unit, and be in charge of activities and assets relevant for security and national defense purposes within Telecom Italia.

But in another sign of the increasingly cozy relationship between Vivendi and Telecom Italia, the telco also said it would create a joint venture with Canal+, Vivendi's pay-TV business, allowing it to bundle telecom services with video content.

Telecom Italia said the tie-up, which has been approved by its board of directors, would give it access to "one of the most important production and rights companies in the world."

The joint venture said its main goal would be to focus on production activities and the acquisition of rights, including licenses to screen popular sports events.

— Iain Morris, News Editor, Light Reading

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