In a case of high boardroom intrigue, the Italian phone group Telecom Italia sacked its Israeli CEO, Amos Genish, while he was away on business in Asia on Tuesday.
Genish was appointed last year to run the under-performing former monopoly by its then-controlling shareholder, French media group Vivendi. But since then directors backed by activist fund Elliott have wrested control of the board. Genish was viewed by some directors as an obstacle to their campaign for a more aggressive shake-up at the company.
Telecom Italia, which said in a statement that it would meet on Sunday to appoint a new CEO, gave no explanation for the abrupt departure, which Genish condemned as a Soviet-style putsch.
Speaking a few hours after the board stripped him of his executive powers, Genish told Reuters that the environment inside TIM was dysfunctional and that several directors had been campaigning against him for months.
Genish said he was concerned about the future of the company and wanted to remain on the board. “I personally will and am committed to do anything to fight and defend the rights of all shareholders from my position as a board member.
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Although born in Hadera, holds a degree from Tel Aviv University and worked in Israeli high-tech, Genish has spent most of his career outside the country.
He was among the cofounders of Global Village Telecom, a Israeli-founded Brazilian telecommunications company, that eventually was bought by France’s Vivendi. He then worked for Vivendi and later became CEO of Telefonica Brasil / Vivo before moving to Telecom Italia.
Vivendi reacted angrily to what it called a mean and cynical maneuver by some board members who moved secretly against Genish, convening the board while he was overseas on business.
“We decry, we condemn the destabilization behind this decision and the disgraceful methods. We reserve all our rights to defend all shareholders interests,” a Vivendi spokesman said.
Elliott, which pulled off a boardroom coup in May when it secured two thirds of the seats on the Telecom Italia board, responded by saying that Vivendi had rebuffed previous attempts at dialogue.
“We are open, and remain open, to a dialogue between us as shareholders of Telecom Italia,” an Elliott spokeswoman said.