Telecom Italia (TIM) issued a quick and curt response to media reports over the weekend that Stefano Siragusa, the operator's deputy general manager and head of infrastructure, is about to up sticks (perhaps as soon as this week).
Siragusa, whose responsibilities include growing TIM's wholesale businesses, is said to be unhappy about the plan – championed by CEO Pietro Labriola – to spin off the operator's fixed-line assets to reduce debt.
Although TIM did not explicitly deny that there could be exits from top management, it stressed that any reasons for departure would not relate to clashes over strategy.
"Allusions about exits dictated by disagreements with the company's strategic line, which continues as planned, led by a renewed, cohesive management team focused on the objectives to be achieved, are to be rejected," maintained TIM.
The idea of "cohesive management" seems a hard one to swallow, however. Not only is Labriola TIM's fifth CEO in six years, but Siragusa – according to local reporting – has a "tense" relationship with Labriola. The two were apparently in the running to replace former TIM CEO Luigi Gubitosi, with Labriola finally getting the nod after support from Vivendi, which has a 24% stake in TIM.
Gubitosi reportedly clashed with Vivendi, which, unlike Gubitosi, is a keen advocate of the fiber spinout plan. The French company also thought it had good reason to question the role of Gubitosi following two profit warnings.
Siragusa, who joined TIM as chief infrastructure officer in 2018 – again, if local reporting is correct – shares Gubitosi's reluctance to hive off the operator's fiber assets.
Fiber deal getting closer
TIM's plan to spin off its fiber network assets and merge them with state-backed rival Open Fiber took a big step forward in May with the announcement that a preliminary agreement has now been signed with a number of interested parties.
TIM signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with state lender CDP Equity as well as US investor KKR and Macquarie Asset Management.
The aim of the MoU is to start a process that would ultimately lead to the creation of a single fiber network operator in Italy, controlled by CDP Equity and also involving KKR and Macquarie.
The intention is to sign any binding agreements by 31 October 2022, although regulatory clearance will be the next big hurdle to overcome.
- Telecom Italia confirms Pietro Labriola as CEO
- TIM closes in on Open Fiber merger deal
- TIM starts formal Open Fiber merger talks with CDP
— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading