STMicro Said to Struggle in Search for CEO to Replace Bozotti

  • French, Italian state shareholders at odds about future chief
  • Several executives have rebuffed approaches by the company

Chipmaker STMicroelectronics NV, struggling to name a successor to its chief executive officer, is exploring international candidates as its French and Italian state shareholders fail to agree on someone from either country, said people familiar with the matter.

With only about six months until CEO Carlo Bozotti’s contract expires, several French and Italian executives from the technology and telecommunications industries have rebuffed approaches, the people said, asking not to be named discussing private talks. The state investors in the past year have intensified their scrutiny over the company and had some disagreements over strategy, closing some units and refocusing research spending, and that tension has put off potential successors to the people said.

STMicro needs a new chief who can rekindle growth and make bold technology choices to avoid the company falling further down global rankings of biggest chipmakers, and time is running out because Bozotti’s contract expires in May -- he’ll be 64 years old then.

Cost Cutting

Even as STMicro’s revenue has shrunk 33 percent from its peak in 2010, the company has sat on the sidelines as the semiconductor industry consolidated through billions of dollars in deal-making. Meanwhile, it’s struggled to generate consistent profit despite extensive cost-cutting.

Since  the hunt for a replacement started more than six months ago, France and Italy haven’t been able to agree on an internal candidate either, the people said. Overall, no decision has been made yet on a successor and no names have emerged to top of the list, they said. STMicro is working with recruiting firm SpencerStuart on the CEO search, the people said.

France has pushed for alternating nationalities at the helm and thus naming a French executive to replace Bozotti, the people said. Representatives for STMicro, the French Finance Ministry and the Italian government declined to comment. France and Italy each own about 14 percent of STMicro’s stock via their joint ownership of a holding company.

STMicro, created in 1987 through a merger of French and Italian rivals, for years followed a practice of mixing nationalities in its management teams and alternating them in key roles, but shareholder back-and-forth could dent that tradition and favor an international candidate in the top seat, they said.

STMicro, which competes with the likes of NXP Semiconductors NV, Infineon Technologies AG and Texas Instruments Inc., supplies chips for cars as well as a broad range of sensors for mobile devices.

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