TIM has a new chairman following resignation of Fulvio Conti

Former ambassador takes over as interim chairman of TIM

27 September 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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TIM has a new chairman, following the resignation of Fulvio Conti last night.

The new interim chairman – until a permanent appointment can be made – is Michele Valensise (pictured), a former diplomat who was Italy’s ambassador to Brazil and then to Germany. He has been on the board of TIM – the former Telecom Italia – since May 2018.

TIM initially downplayed the resignation of Conti, who had been chairman also since May 2018, when he replaced Vivendi CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine at the top of TIM. The company said Conti stepped down at the end of a board meeting, saying “he believes his mandate has been completed”, the board having “achieved stability in its operations and the renewed focus on creation of sustainable value for all the company’s stakeholders”.

Yet the change at the top can be seen as the latest twist in the continuing dispute between two of TIM’s major shareholders, French media company Vivendi and US activist Elliott Management.

A Vivendi spokesperson said last night: “Vivendi believes that the decisions taken today at the board meeting will help continue on the right track with a common goal between board members and shareholders. We approve the appointment of Mr Valensise. He is an independent board member proposed by Vivendi.”

According to some reports, Elliott – which is the same group that is trying to shake up AT&T in the US – and Vivendi are hoping that the truce that has existed between them since earlier in 2019 will continue.

The next crucial date in the saga of TIM is 21 October, when the board meets again and aims to appoint a new permanent chairman.

His or her main challenge will be to restore some stability in the top management of TIM. The CEO, Elliott-backed Luigi Gubitosi, was appointed only 10 months ago, in November 2018, after the board fired former Vivendi executive Amos Genish. Vivendi later supported Gubitosi’s continued role, marking the start of the truce.

At the company’s international wholesale operation, Sparkle, there has been a similar revolving door at the top, with a former CEO Riccardo Delleani, returning to the role in April 2018, in place of Alessandro Talotta, only for Delleani to be ousted in favour of Mario Di Mauro just 11 months later.