Bouygues CEO Succession Takes Shape as Son, Nephew Join Board

  • Martin Bouygues to give board suggestions `in coming months'
  • Son Edward, nephew Cyril not immediately in line for top job

Martin Bouygues

Photographer: Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images

Chief Executive Officer Martin Bouygues, billionaire scion of the eponymous French telecommunications and construction conglomerate, is laying the groundwork for his succession as a son and a nephew joined the board and names of a replacement could be given in the coming months.

Bouygues SA shareholders on Thursday voted in Edward Bouygues, 32, the eldest son of the CEO, and his cousin Cyril, the 30-year-old son of Martin’s brother Olivier Bouygues, at an annual general meeting in Guyancourt, France.

Edward, who will represent SCDM , the family holding owned by Martin and Olivier, is head of marketing in charge of services, content and design at Bouygues Telecom. Cyril is the head of an SCDM-operated oil exploration business in the southwestern French city of Pau.

The arrival of two next-generation family members to the board coincides with the collapse this month of talks for what would have been a transformational deal by Bouygues to sell the company’s telecommunications operations to France’s largest phone operator Orange SA for cash and stock. Martin Bouygues, 63, who is also chairman, along with 65-year-old Olivier, control 20 percent of the company and 28 percent of the voting rights through SCDM.

No Taboo 

Asked at the investor meeting about his succession plan, Martin Bouygues said the topic wasn’t taboo and was often discussed with the board of directors.

"In one or two years I will have made my position evolve, precisely to bring near me people who are maybe younger, more dynamic, more attuned to the modern world we live in," the CEO said. He plans to give suggestions for succession to the board in the coming months, he said.

Neither Edward nor Cyril are in line to taking the top job in the near term at the company, which has a globe-spanning construction business developing everything from France’s new military headquarters to office towers and highways.

"They are in a phase where they learn a lot of things, they did bright studies and they have a beautiful spot in the company," Martin Bouygues said.

Still, Bouygues remains a family affair. Asked which CEO inspired him the most, Martin Bouygues named his father, Francis, sparking applause from the audience.

Chief Financial Officer Philippe Marien, 59, and Bouygues Telecom unit head Olivier Roussat, 51, are viewed as favorites to become CEO in the next two years while Martin Bouygues could remain chairman, Le Journal du Dimanche reported in February, without saying where it got the information. Roussat has never worked in construction, Bouygues’ main business, while Marien is four years younger than the current CEO. A Bouygues spokesman declined to comment on the plan.

Family Seats

Thursday’s nominations will expand the number of directors on the Bouygues board to 16 from 14, bringing the number of family members representing SCDM on par with the four seats occupied by representatives of employees.

Martin Bouygues was appointed chairman and CEO in 1989 at the age of 37, taking over from his father who founded the group in 1952. The company had sales of 32.4 billion euros ($37 billion) last year, and employed more than 120,000 people.

At the beginning of April, negotiations for Bouygues to sell its telecom unit to Orange ended in failure. A sale to the former French phone monopoly would have eliminated Bouygues Telecom, reducing the number of carriers from four to three. The discussions involved Martin Bouygues as well as Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron and broke down partly over an inability of the sides to agree on a valuation for the unit.

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