Orange boss resigns following guilty court verdict

Orange boss resigns following guilty court verdict

Orange announced CEO Stephane Richard (pictured) is to leave the company by the end of January 2022, bringing down the curtain on 11 years at the helm after he was handed a one-year suspended prison sentence related to his time as part of the French government.

In a statement, Orange disclosed that, following the verdict by the Paris Appeal Court, it had taken note of Richard’s decision to hand over his mandate as chairman and CEO and accepted his resignation.

The move will take effect once a new governance structure has been appointed by 31 January 2022 at the latest and Richard will continue his role until then.

Richard’s decision to resign followed the conclusion of a long-running case linked to his role in the government as chief of staff to finance minister Christine Lagarde in 2008.

The case related to a €400 million state pay-out to late businessman Bernard Tapie at the time. Tapie had accused the government of fraud when he sold a stake in sportswear company Adidas to a state-backed bank in 1992.

Richard himself was cleared of fraud, but convicted of complicity and also fined €50,000 after a judge ruled he had “committed grave acts by favouring the interests of Tapie at the expense of those of the state”.

End of an era
Following the ruling and before handing in his resignation, Richard released a statement rejecting the accusations and confirmed he would appeal the decision.

He also said he would leave his fate regarding his mandate at Orange to the operator’s board. Richard was mandated to serve in his role until May 2022.

During more than a decade at the company, Orange credited Richard with restoring an appeased working environment after the “social crisis”, sparked by employee suicides. It also pointed to his work in transforming Orange as a multi-service operator across Europe and Africa.

In terms of successors, the company already has two deputy CEOs in Gervais Pellissier and Ramon Fernandez, both of whom would be likely candidates.

Richard also serves as chairman of industry association the GSMA. At the time of writing, it is unclear if his position is affected. He was re-elected in the position in November 2020 to serve until the end of 2022