Stephane Richard, CEO of French telecoms group Orange, will leave the company at the latest at the end of January next year. The decision came after his conviction earlier today. The Court of Appeal sentenced him to a suspended year in prison and a fine of 50,000 euros for his role in the 2008 case of businessman Bernard Tapie. Richard will appeal in cassation.
He has been CEO of Orange, the parent company of Orange Belgium, since 2011. Orange announced that he will be leaving after a board meeting. Stefan Richards has a contract until mid-2022. He will now leave the company once new management is appointed, at the latest on January 31. Until then, he will remain in office.
The conviction is a disgrace to the career of 60-year-old Richard. He may end his ambition to remain in the position of president when the CEO’s term ends.
Public money fraud
The conviction relates to the facts when Richard was still private secretary to then French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde. She is now the president of the European Central Bank. Richard was found guilty of assisting businessman Tabby, who died last month, for fraud with public funds. According to the court, Richard represented Tapie’s interests at the expense of the government. He was acquitted in the first degree.
The case began with the sale of Tapie’s stake in the sports brand Adidas in 1993. The businessman believed that the state bank Credit Lyonnais had defrauded him, which led to a long conflict. In 2007, Lagarde agreed to arbitration proceedings. This resulted in Tapie receiving 403 million euros in compensation from the state treasury a year later. The state did not resume.
Lagarde was previously found guilty of negligence, but was not sentenced.
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