Orange CEO to face trial for complicity in fraud and embezzlement

Orange CEO Stephane Ricard has found himself in a bit of hot water with complicity in fraud and embezzlement charges dating back to his days in the French Ministry.

According to the Financial Times, Ricard will be tried alongside five other suspects in a case dating back to the mid-90s. Bernard Tapie, who also faces charges, received a payment of €405 million in 2008, after the businessman claimed he was defrauded by the now-defunct state-owned bank Crédit Lyonnais, after its advisors encouraged him to sell his stake in Adidas for less than what it was worth in 1993.

The matter was batted around for quite a few years before Tapie was awarded the compensation after Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president in 2007 and agreed to settle the case through arbitration. Unfortunately for Ricard, who was chief of staff of then Finance Minister Christine Lagarde at the time of the pay-out, corruption has been claimed by critics as Tapie funded Sarkozy’s campaign.

While a date for the trial has not be set, the timing could not be worse for Ricard. The CEO will face a vote at the next Orange AGM to see whether a further term as Chairman and CEO will be granted. The French government currently has a 29% stake in Orange, and therefore substantial weight when it comes to control over Ricard’s Orange career. The timing could be better.

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