Chief Orange sentenced to one year probation

Orange CEO Stéphane Richard (Stéphane Richard) was sentenced to a one-year probation by the French Court of Appeal for a fraud involving the late businessman Bernard Tapie. The future is up in the air.

Richard, who has been CEO of Orange since 2011 Was previously acquitted In this long-standing case, it has something to do with his former position as chief of staff of French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde in the government.

The prosecutor had asked Richard to be sentenced to three years in prison. According to a court ruling on Wednesday, he was exonerated from one charge of fraud, but convicted of conspiracy to misuse public funds, sentenced to probation, and fined 50,000 euros.

Orange, France’s largest telecommunications group, declined to comment on the case, which has nothing to do with the company. But people familiar with the matter said that Orange’s board of directors is scheduled to meet later on Wednesday to discuss Richard’s position and whether he can continue.

The French government owns a minority stake in Orange, and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has previously stated that if convicted, executives of government-backed companies will have to leave.

The center of this case is the government grant of 403 million euros LurkingWhen he sold his shares in the sportswear group Adidas to a state-owned bank 30 years ago, he accused the state of deceiving him in a business transaction.

The settlement agreement was approved by Lagarde and worked with Richard at the time, but some people later criticized the payment for being too much, accusing it of a secret reward for Tappi to support former President Nicolas Sarkozy during the campaign.

Tappi, known as the former chairman of the Marseille Football Club in France, died in October. Lagarde, the current president of the European Central Bank, was convicted of negligence in public office in 2016.

Richard has long denied wrongdoing and stated that he has rejected all charges against him and will appeal the verdict to a higher court. He added that his mission at Orange “is in the hands of Orange’s board of directors.”

If Richard is replaced, Orange has two “representative” heads that can be strengthened-Gervais Pellissier, who has held administrative positions at Orange since 2005, and Gervais Pellissier, who has been deputy director since 2009, and former government advisers Ramon Fernandez, who has always served as deputy director. Served as chief since 2014.

During his tenure at the top, Richard has been a stable assistant to Orange, and Orange is recovering from a crisis triggered by a wave of employee suicides when he took over. His appointment coincided with the turbulent period of the French telecommunications industry, as Altice acquired SFR and Numericable and the rise of radical competitors such as Xavier Niel’s “Iliad”.

Orange is one of the largest telecommunications companies in Europe. It keeps pace with Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone. It is trying to reinvigorate its growth through overseas acquisitions and entry into different fields (especially media and banking). Recently, it focused on value creation, splitting its tower business into a new company called Totem, and seeking deals in some markets to strengthen its base in markets such as Romania and Belgium.

However, Richard’s tenure was overshadowed by Tapie’s allegations. He had previously argued that his removal would destabilize the company, including in 2018 the French government supported him to obtain a new authorization, although he may face a damaging fraud trial.

Additional reporting by Domitille Alain in Paris

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