FILE PHOTO: Telecom Italia new logo is seen at the headquarter in Rozzano neighbourhood of Milan, Italy, May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/File Photo
ROME/MILAN (Reuters) – Telecom Italia’s board has decided to call a shareholder meeting for March 29 to vote on top shareholder Vivendi’s request to replace five board members, three sources familiar with the matter said.
In December, the French media giant, which owns 24 percent of Telecom Italia (TIM), called for the replacement of five of the board members put forward by U.S. activist fund Elliott, citing a “substantial lack of independence”.
Vivendi’s request was the latest twist in a months-long battle between Vivendi and Elliott over how to revive Italy’s biggest phone group, an underperforming business saddled with 25 billion euros ($28.65 billion) of debt.
The U.S. hedge fund wrested board control from Vivendi in May by appointing 10 candidates – or two-thirds of the total – to its board after accusing the French investor of serving only its own interests. All candidates on Elliott’s list were independent.
Vivendi has asked for the removal of TIM Chairman Fulvio Conti and four other board members, Alfredo Altavilla, Massimo Ferrari, Dante Roscini and Paola Giannotti de Ponti.
The list of board members to be replaced did not include the name of Luigi Gubitosi, who was among the candidates put forward by Elliott in May and who in November suddenly became TIM’s new chief executive, succeeding Amos Genish, a Vivendi ally.
On Monday, two-thirds of TIM’s 15 board members voted in favor of holding the shareholder meeting in March, one of the sources said, trumping a request by Vivendi for it to happen as soon as possible, preferably by mid-February.
Reporting by Agnieszka Flak and Alberto Sisto, editing by Louise Heavens