Telecom Italia SpA, the country’s biggest phone company, appointed Aldo Minucci as chairman at a board meeting today, filling a position left vacant after the departure of Executive Chairman Franco Bernabe last October.
Minucci, 67, currently deputy chairman, will lead the phone carrier “without any changes to the existing powers vested in CEO Marco Patuano,” the Milan-based company said in a statement. Bloomberg News reported earlier that he would be nominated today.
Directors also approved a procedure to “manage any extraordinary transactions” involving its Brazilian business, the company said. Telecom Italia has repeatedly said its Latin American division remains strategic.
The company’s largest shareholder, Spain’s Telefonica SA, has been seeking to exercise greater influence and last year increased its indirect stake in the carrier.
Minucci told the website Firstonline in an interview that he will only serve in the position until a new board is chosen in April. “I will guarantee the rights of all shareholders, with an eye on governance. ”
Minucci told the website he saw the need for a smaller board and “giving more space to independent personalities who don’t represent big investors.”
Telecom Italia said directors will review the corporate governance issue on Feb. 27.
Minucci studied law at Italy’s University of Trieste. He joined insurer Assicurazioni Generali SpA in 1972 and in 1995 became a deputy director general. He was chairman of Telco SpA, the holding company that owns 22.4 percent of Telecom Italia, from 2007 to 2012. He is president of Ania, Italy’s association of insurance companies.
Minority investor Findim Group SA last year narrowly lost a bid to revoke Telecom Italia’s board in a sign that some shareholders were getting impatient with corporate governance at the carrier.
The corporate governance issue has become crucial as CEO Patuano faces key decisions, such as in Brazil, on how to reduce Telecom Italia’s $38 billion debt pile and revive its Italian phone business pummeled by Europe’s debt crisis.
Telefonica CEO Cesar Alierta and former executive Julio Linares in December stepped down from Telecom Italia’s board to avoid the perceived conflicts of interest in Brazil, where the two companies compete. The country’s antitrust authorities have fined Telefonica and ordered it to reduce its Brazilian holdings or convince Telecom Italia to sell its local unit, Tim Participacoes SA.
The Italian carrier also said today that the trend of 2013 earnings before some items was in line with the company’s goals released in August, while revenue is slightly lower than the target stated in February 2013. It will release full-year 2013 figures on March 6.