July 13, 2017 / 12:29 PM / 4 months ago

Vivendi trying to get own manager into top role at Telecom Italia -sources

MILAN/PARIS, July 13 (Reuters) - Vivendi is working to place one of its senior managers, Amos Genish, in a top role at Telecom Italia in a move by the French shareholder to exert greater influence over the Italian company’s chief executive, two sources told Reuters.

Relations between French media group Vivendi and Flavio Cattaneo have been strained since the Italian CEO had a heated exchange with Rome over the rollout of ultrafast broadband across Italy, sources told Reuters last week.

This upset Vivendi, which is already under scrutiny for its growing influence in Italian business through its stake in TIM and a 30 percent share in private broadcaster Mediaset.

Cattaneo denied on Tuesday any tensions with Telecom Italia’s shareholders, its board or the group’s chairman Arnaud de Puyfontaine, who is Vivendi’s chief executive, and said he would remain until the end of his mandate in 2020.

But a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday that feuding between Vivendi and TIM was still going on and a second source said things might soon come to a head.

“In one way or another, the French want to give a role to Genish,” said a source close to the matter.

The Israeli businessman, who was appointed as Vivendi’s Chief Convergence Officer in January, is a former head of Telefonica’s Brazil unit and founder of Brazilian telecoms company GVT.

A second source close to the matter said that Vivendi, which holds a 24 percent stake in Telecom Italia, has suggested appointing managers to work alongside Cattaneo, and that Genish was a top candidate for one of these roles.

Genish was considered vital to Vivendi’s successful foray in Brazil, where it bought GVT in 2010 and then sold it off to Telefonica four years later, making a more than $4 billion capital gain for Telefonica.

The French company has since turned to him to integrate all of the content that Vivendi produces and delivers to clients.

The source added that former Telecom Italia (TIM) Chairman and CEO Franco Bernabe has also been shortlisted, while Vivendi was also looking at the possibility of giving more power to TIM deputy chairman Giuseppe Recchi.

It was not clear what position Genish would be asked to take in TIM nor whether Cattaneo would agree to the appointment.

“Either (Cattaneo) agrees to work with these people or he will have to go,” the second source said, adding that the aim was to find a solution before the end of the month.

A routine meeting of TIM’s Nomination and Remuneration committee held on July 27 along with the group’s board approving first half results, may examine the management changes, a third person with knowledge of the matter said.

Cattaneo took over as chief executive at heavily-indebted TIM a little more than a year ago after his predecessor quit over strategy differences with Vivendi. The 54-year-old earned praise from Vivendi and other investors for cutting costs. (Reporting by Giulia Segreti in Milan and Gwénaëlle Barzic in Paris; additional reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; editing by Alexander Smith)

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