Vivendi's Genish Gets GM Job at Telecom Italia

Telecom Italia revealed that Amos Genish will take over as its general manager following the departure of Flavio Cattaneo, who this week quit the CEO role at the Italian operator after appearing to fall out with main shareholder Vivendi.

Genish is currently Vivendi's chief convergence officer and his appointment is a further sign of the French media conglomerate's growing influence over the Italian former state-owned monopoly, in which it holds a stake of about 24%.

Genish will report directly to Arnaud de Puyfontaine, Vivendi's CEO, who is taking on most of Cattaneo's CEO responsibilities for the time being as Vivendi's executive chairman.

According to earlier reports, Telecom Italia (TIM) is scouting around for a full-time replacement for Cattaneo but could move Genish into that role if it cannot find a suitable candidate.

Working alongside de Puyfontaine as executive chairman and Genish as general manager will be a daunting proposition for any incoming CEO given Vivendi's history of falling out with Telecom Italia's bosses.

Marco Patuano, Cattaneo's predecessor, was reportedly forced out of the job in March 2016 after clashing with Vincent Bolloré, Vivendi's chairman, over the strategy Telecom Italia was then pursuing.

Cattaneo appeared to have far greater success in restoring the operator's fortunes, however, with Telecom Italia today reporting rates of growth in sales and earnings for the second quarter that some of Europe's other big operators will have eyed with envy. (See Eurobites: Cattaneo Leaves Telecom Italia on a Half-Year High.)

Vivendi is said to have been worried about a deteriorating relationship between Telecom Italia and the Italian government after Cattaneo promised to build broadband networks in competition with a state-backed scheme and accused authorities of controlling the economy.

He managed to negotiate a "golden handshake" of €25 million ($29 million) as he left the business.

In a statement, the operator said Genish would oversee all of Telecom Italia's operations on taking up the general manager role.

Having founded GVT, a Brazilian operator that Spain's Telefónica subsequently acquired, Genish has considerable experience of working in Telecom Italia's other big market besides Italy. Following Telefónica's acquisition, he became CEO of the enlarged Brazilian business, serving more than 90 million customers with a range of fixed and mobile services.

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Speculation is rampant about Vivendi's motives for involving itself so heavily in Telecom Italia's day-to-day activities, but de Puyfontaine is said to have denied Vivendi is interested in combining the telco with Mediaset, an Italian broadcaster in which it now owns a 29% stake.

Vivendi is, however, examining plans to set up a joint venture between Telecom Italia and its Canal Plus pay-TV business, according to a Reuters report.

Other strategic options for Telecom Italia could include a sale of the Brazilian business -- something regarded as a serious possibility before Cattaneo took charge -- and a spin-off of Telecom Italia's fixed-line business.

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

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