Orange’s chairman and CEO Stéphane Richard has resigned after being found guilty by the Paris Court of Appeal of aiding and abetting in the misuse of public funds.
He has been sentenced to one year suspended prison sentence and fined €50,000 for complicity in the so-called Tapie Affair. Although he is appealing the decision, he will depart no later than January 31.
In a statement, Orange said: “the board of directors wishes to underline Stéphane Richard’s desire to ensure that the group’s governance is preserved. The board thanks him for his commitment at the helm of Orange for the past 11 years, from restoring an appeased working environment after the social crisis to the transformation of Orange into a leading multi-service operator in Europe and Africa. Stéphane will have contributed significantly to the history of the group in sometimes tumultuous times and always working in the best interests of the company.
It added: “the board of directors will continue the recruitment process initiated a few months ago in order to appoint and implement the new governance”.
According to Reuters, the Tapie affair concerned a €400 million French state pay-out to the late tycoon Bernard Tapie in 2008. Tapie had accused the government of defrauding him when he sold a stake in sportswear group Adidas to a state-backed bank in 1992.
Reuters adds that at the time of the 2008 settlement, Richard was chief of staff to then French finance minister Christine Lagarde, who is now president of the European Central Bank. Lagarde, who had also denied wrongdoing, was convicted of negligence over the affair in December 2016.
Richard’s current term was due to expire in May 2022. He had already said that he would not seek to stay on as CEO but that he was willing to remain as chairman.