French media and telecom giant Vivendi SA's (VIVEF.PK) Chief Executive Officer Jean-Bernard Lévy resigned Thursday, following strategy differences with the Supervisory Board. The company has appointed General Counsel Jean-François Dubos to replace Lévy as the head of the management board.
Lévy, 57, offered to quit following a meeting of the Supervisory Board held Thursday. He joined Vivendi in August 2002 as chief operating officer and was elevated to his current role in 2005. The company said Lévy is stepping down "following a divergence of views on the strategic development of the Group."
The owner of music giant Universal Music Group has seen its shares decline for sometime now - currently at a nine-year low - and has faced shareholder wrath for failing to handle its low valuation. Following news of Lévy's resignation, Vivendi shares rose 5.54 percent and closed at 14.19 euros on Thursday.
Lévy was also the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Vivendi's French mobile-phone unit SFR after its previous CEO was ousted earlier. Following Lévy's departure, his selected successor former Vodafone PLC executive Michel Combes, who was due to join on August 1, will no longer join the firm.
Instead, Vivendi plans to propose that Stéphane Roussel, currently Senior Executive Vice President, Human Resources, be appointed to head SFR.
Lévy, who was instrumental in expanding the firm though various acquisitions, was shown the door as the board has slowly shifted its view that the telecommunications and entertainment giant's assets need to be separated. The company has been reportedly considering restructuring its operations, including a possible sale of its recently acquired video-game publisher Activision Blizzard Inc. (ATVI) and the spinoff of pay-TV unit Canal Plus.
Vivendi noted that Lévy successfully led its development through the disposal of the cinema activities in the United States, the consolidation of SFR as an integrated fixed/mobile operator, along with the acquisition of Activision and the merger with Blizzard and the acquisition and development of Brazil's high speed Internet firm GVT.
However, both Lévy and supervisory board Chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou have been reportedly on dispute for months over the need to revamp the conglomerate's structure. Lévy resisted major asset sales or a breakup of the company.
In recent years, the company has sold some major assets, including its stake in movie and TV firm NBCUniversal. Adding to its woes, a U.S. court this week decided to slap Vivendi with a $956 million fine over a 2001 transaction with Liberty Media Corp. (LMCA).
The newly appointed Chairman, Dubos, joined Compagnie Générale des Eaux, the predecessor of Vivendi, as deputy to the Chief Executive Officer in 1991, and since 1994, has held the position of General Counsel. In 2005, he was appointed as Executive Vice-President and General Counsel, Secretary of the management and supervisory boards of Vivendi.
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by RTT Staff Writer
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