Mon. Dec 6th, 2021

Orange’s chief executive, Stéphane Richard, will leave the French telecommunications group by the end of January at the latest, after being sentenced to one year in jail in a fraud case unrelated to the company.

The lengthy lawsuit, which relates to late businessman Bernard Tapie and Richard’s time in a government post, has long hung over the executive’s tenure at Orange, although he was acquitted of any offense in an earlier ruling.

But Richard, who is also chairman, submitted his resignation at a board meeting on Wednesday, the company said. It will take effect when “the new management structure has been appointed and by 31 January 2022 at the latest”, Orange added.

After a decade in the role, Richard was one of the longest-serving leaders in European telecommunications and is leaving in a time of turmoil and fierce competition within the sector. His mandate would end in May 2022.

Richard had ambitions to stay on as chairman, even though he said he would be willing to give up his job as CEO by then.

A French appeals court has acquitted Richard of aiding and abetting fraud, but found him guilty of complicity in the misuse of public funds, linked to a previous post as Christine Lagarde’s chief of staff when she was finance minister. He was also fined € 50,000.

Richard rejected the verdict, saying he would appeal to France’s Supreme Court. “During the process, the charges shifted. . . it is totally incomprehensible and deeply unfair, “he said in a statement.

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