Genish and Elliott embark on inevitable war of words

The only surprising thing about ousted TIM CEO Genish publicly attacking Elliott was that it took so long.

A week ago Amos Genish was removed as CEO of Italian telecoms group TIM by a board dominated by activist investors Elliott. They then replaced him sharpish with once of their own board nominees, Luigi Gubitosi, who will presumably enact those Elliott plans for the company that Vivendi-nominated board member Genish had resisted.

We get the impression that Genish has been mucked about a fair bit in this process, having apparently been reassured just a couple of days before he was sacked that he wouldn’t be. But his biggest issue seems to be with the overall boss of Elliott, Paul Singer, who he claims personally convinced him to hang around after Elliott had grabbed control of the TIM board.

In an interview with the Telegraph Genish said “Immediately after the AGM, Paul Singer called me and over a long call convinced me we have shared values, shared history and a common vision. He said that he fully supported me and the plan, and asked me to stay.

“I was naïve to believe him. I forgot that I was dealing with a raider and not with what you would call an activist. That’s too positive a name to give to this hedge fund. Clearly they switched their position very quickly and that’s where we are.”

It’s telling that he concedes his naivety. Elliott clearly had a massive interest in Genish hanging around in the short term, to avoid an investor panic if he had left immediately after the AGM. On that basis Singer was bound to tell him what he wanted to hear. We trust Genish wasn’t so naïve as to fail to negotiate a nice, fat payoff in the event of him getting turfed our prematurely.

Anyway, Elliott wasn’t about to take this level of moaning without a response and here’s what we got from one of its spokespeople. “Mr Genish had the opportunity to create value; we supported him. In actuality, he proved to be an impediment to value creation and the uncertainty as to his allegiances created disharmony with the Board.

“Total shareholder returns during Mr Genish’s tenure were -33.5%. For this reason, the Board had to let him go. Although Elliott had no foreknowledge of Mr Genish’s removal, we support the Board’s decision to remove him. The Board now has the opportunity to do the right thing and to act in the best interests of all stakeholders, by adopting Elliott’s value creation plan. We are confident that Mr Gubitosi can and will do better than Mr Genish did.”

If Elliott insists it had no part to play in Genish’s removal then we have to believe them in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, but that’s clearly not how Genish sees things. Vivendi has stayed pretty quiet throughout all this drama but it must surely be a matter of time before it gets its big guns out. Keep it up please, it makes for great copy.

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