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TIM board meeting could set CEO on road to new deal

Italy’s biggest phone group Telecom Italia (TIM) will start work on Wednesday on a plan that could keep Chief Executive Luigi Gubitosi in his role when it names a new board in April, two sources familiar with the matter said.

The group’s outgoing board, whose three-year term is coming to an end, will start discussions at a meeting before drafting a slate of board nominees which it must file by the end of March for shareholders to vote upon on April 20.

TIM is expected to pick a headhunter to help with the board’s selection process and advisory firm Egon Zehnder is in pole position for the role, the sources said.
Other sources had told Reuters that Italy’s government backed the idea of a new list of directors submitted by TIM’s board with support from the group’s top investors, French media giant Vivendi and state lender CDP.

Vivendi holds 24% of TIM, CDP owns 10%.

“The idea is that the board could put forward its own list and Gubitosi’s name would be on it,” one of the two sources familiar with the matter said. Both TIM and Vivendi declined to comment.
Vivendi’s support is crucial for the plan to succeed.

Relations between the French group and Italy have been hurt by Rome’s recent decision to pass a law that may curb Vivendi’s interests in the country and strengthen the hand of broadcaster Mediaset in a long-running legal battle against Vivendi.

Gubitosi took the helm at TIM three years ago after activist fund Elliott won a governance battle against Vivendi, succeeding in appointing 10 directors out of 15 to the board.
During his term, Gubitosi has focused on shedding assets to cut debt, while working on combining TIM’s fixed network assets with those of state backed rival Open Fiber, a project which Italy sees as crucial to reduce the country’s digital divide with the rest of Europe.

Gubitosi’s appointment is part of a broader compromise the government is discussing with Vivendi as they attempt to heal relations and press on with the single-network project, sources have said previously. Reuters

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