Executives quit European technology firms

Spring cleaning is well under way at the head offices of some of Europe's largest technology companies, with several high-profile...

Spring cleaning is well under way at the head offices of some of Europe's largest technology companies, with several high-profile executives announcing their departure within a week.

Solomon Trujillo, the chief executive officer of Orange, resigned earlier this week after less than 15 months at the helm. His resignation - as part of a wide-ranging management overhaul at France Télécom, Orange's parent company - comes just one day after Tapio Hintikka, CEO of the Swedish-Finnish telecommunications company TeliaSonera, quit after disagreeing with other board members on issues including pay.

These two resignations follow Ulrich Schumacher's surprise decision to step down as CEO of German chip maker Infineon Technologies over management disputes, and Deutsche Telekom board member Josef Brauner's decision to quit after accepting responsibility for a failed truck-toll system for the German government. Brauner was responsible for the group's fixed-line business.

The management changes come as European technology companies squabble over strategies to cut costs, while at the same time achieve market growth.

Trujillo's departure is part of a larger reorgansation that includes having Orange, once a standalone company, fully re-integrated into the parent company, France Télécom said.

The French operator acquired Orange in 2000, merged the UK mobile operator with its own wireless operations and sold a stake in the new company to the public. Since September, France Télécom has been buying out the mobile unit's minority shareholders and aims to snap up the remaining shares this month.

Orange is Europe's third-largest mobile phone company, after Vodafone T-Mobile International.

When Trujillo took over the helm of Orange in March 2003, he pursued a strategy of aggressive growth, adding around five million customers to the unit's some 50 million and increasing revenue by around 10%.

Trujillo will be replaced by Sanjiv Ahuja, Orange's chief operating officer. As part of the reorganisation, Ahuja and two other Orange executives, John Allwood and Didier Quillot, in charge of Orange's UK and French operations respectively, will join the France Télécom board.

In addition, the French telecommunications group will split its business into five operational and five performance divisions under an executive committee headed by chairman and CEO Thierry Breton. One of the more visible changes will be merger of the Wanadoo internet subsidiary with the fixed-line business.

John Blau writes for IDG News Service

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