Cellnex names Bouverot as new chair


Cellnex has caved to investor pressure and replaced its chairperson, appointing former GSMA leader Anne Bouverot (pictured) to the post.

The news comes just days after the passive infrastructure specialist’s new biggest shareholder TCI Fund Management published a letter to the board calling for the heads of three of its directors, including former chair Bertrand Kan, due to their lack of progress in appointing a new chief executive. The letter is dated 23 March, the same day that TCI Fund Management upped its stake in Cellnex to above 9%, making it the firm’s single largest shareholder.

“We believe that Cellnex is a great company, but in our opinion it cannot reach its full potential because it is held back by poor corporate governance,” reads the letter, signed by TCI Fund Management founder Christopher Hohn.

“The Company announced the resignation of its CEO, Mr Tobias Martinez Gimeno, on 11 January 2023. We believe that the subsequent hiring process for a new CEO has been mishandled by the board and resulted in insufficient progress to recruiting a suitable replacement. As a result we have lost confidence in Bertrand Kan, Peter Shore and Alexandra Reich as effective directors,” Hohn says.

Martinez left the company amidst a strategy overhaul that he felt disinclined to lead. Having gone through a period of high spending and aggressive expansion, Cellnex has decided to put its wallet away and focus on its balance sheet, with a specific goal of attaining investment grade status with S&P.

At the time Martinez, who had spent more than two decades at Cellnex and its predecessors, spoke of the need for a new chapter for the company, in response to the economic situation, and of organic growth and balance sheet management.

“All these factors have led me to weigh up the need for this stage of the Cellnex evolution to be led by a person with a time horizon that extends beyond December 2024, at which time my contract ends,” he said.

It all seemed perfectly straightforward; the right time to bring in a new leader to see the company through a new phase.

The trouble is, no new leader has emerged. And Martinez is due to leave in June.

There have been rumours. Bloomberg recently named former TIM CEO Marco Patuano, who has also previously served as chairman of Cellnex and currently chairs Italian utility company A2A Group, as well as serving on the board of AC Milan, plus other roles. The newswire claims Patuano is on a list of possible candidates for the top job that currently resides with the board and notes that he is the preferred candidate of TCI Fund Management. However, it points out that there are others, and that Cellnex could still opt for an internal appointment.

Whatever the outcome, it will have to get its skates on to keep its largest shareholder happy. And that is now down to its new chairperson.

Anne Bouverot has been an independent director of Cellnex since May 2018 and is a member of its Audit and Risk Management Committee (ARMC). She has extensive experience in the telecoms space, having spent 19 years at Orange before becoming director general of mobile industry body the GSMA, a post she held for four years until 2015, when she became chief executive of security services company Morpho.

Bouverot made it clear that nothing has changed at Cellnex; the new organic growth strategy is still front and centre.

“The Board of Directors is fully supportive of this strategy and agrees that finding the right successor for Tobias Martinez, who has announced he is stepping down as CEO in June, is a key priority,” she said, before taking the usual steps of thanking her predecessor and expressing how much she is looking forward to taking on her new role.

She had nothing more to say about the succession plan, but we can probably expect an announcement fairly soon, given the pressure Cellnex is under to make a decision.


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