September 17, 2019 / 10:45 AM / 2 months ago

Benettons set to shake up Atlantia as bridge probe escalates: sources

MILAN (Reuters) - The Benetton family is set to replace the powerful head of Atlantia (ATL.MI) with a management board and co-opt a veteran right-hand man to help steer the infrastructure group through fallout from a deadly bridge collapse, three sources said.

FILE PHOTO: Autostrade per l'Italia Chief Executive Giovanni Castellucci gestures during a news conference about the collapsed Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy August 18, 2018. REUTERS/Massimo Pinca/File Photo

Giovanni Castellucci, who has been Atlantia chief executive since 2006, is expected to hand in his resignation at a board meeting later on Tuesday, the sources close to the matter said.

“The idea of setting up an executive committee would offer good support,” one of the sources said, adding the company might also decide to appoint a temporary managing director.

Another source said Gianni Mion, a veteran manager who has long been close to the Benettons - who control Atlantia - and who heads the family’s holding company Edizione, could be appointed to the board and become an executive director.

The collapse last year of a bridge in Genoa claiming 43 lives brought Atlantia under heavy political pressure with the ruling coalition 5-Star Movement calling for it to be stripped of its motorway concession.

Atlantia’s highway unit, which counts Chinese fund Silk Road and Allianz (ALVG.DE) among its investors, runs half of Italy’s 6,000 kilometres of toll roads and generates one third of Atlantia core profits.

Castellucci, the mastermind of a multi-billion merger with Spanish rival Abertis last year, was re-appointed CEO at Atlantia last May with a new three-year mandate.

But news on Friday that Italy’s tax police had evidence safety reports for some viaducts operated by Atlantia’s motorway unit had been falsified or information omitted to mislead transport ministry inspectors forced a change of mind.

“That was a blow that prompted the family to pull support from Castellucci,” said one of the sources.

Atlantia is holding a board meeting on Tuesday at 1230 GMT when the CEO is scheduled to make a statement.

At 1138 GMT Atlantia shares were up 1.6% after tumbling almost 8% on Monday.

(This version of the story fixes typo in lead paragraph)

Reporting by Francesca Landini, Elisa Anzolin, Stephen Jewkes; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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