Doctor or decorator?
Stéphane Richard, the new boss of France Telecom, wants to overhaul its strategy as well as its offices;
When Stéphane Richard appeared recently in Paris Match, a celebrity and news magazine, lightly tanned in an open-necked shirt and leaning jauntily against the corporate logo of his new firm, France Telecom, he raised eyebrows in the buttoned-down world of French telecoms. Mr Richard did not attend the elite engineering school which produces almost all of France’s senior telecoms executives, including his predecessor at France Telecom, Didier Lombard, and the boss of Vivendi, a rival. Instead, he is a political operator who has made a fortune in property. He is a friend of Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s president, and worked until recently as chief of staff to the finance minister. He became boss of France Telecom last month with the immediate task of responding to a wave of suicides among employees which had prompted a political outcry.
最近，Stéphane Richard的照片登上了名人新闻杂志《巴黎竞赛画报》，他穿着敞领衬衫，肤色微黑，背靠着公司的标志，看起来很时尚。他新执掌的公司法国电信相当传统，这一举动也让全公司吃了一惊。法国电信业的绝大部分高管都出身著名工程院校，包括Stéphane Richard的前任Didier Lombard，还有法国电信对头公司威望迪集团的老总。和这些人背景不同，Stéphane Richard是个政治活动家，靠房地产起家。他是萨科奇的好友，直到最近还是财政部的办公厅主任。上个月他成为法国电信的首席执行长，上任后立即着手处理公司员工自杀潮。此前，法国电信员工的连续自杀曾引发政治抗议。
Since 2008 over 30 France Telecom employees have killed themselves, some explicitly blaming the company. Even though the firm’s suicide rate is in line with the national average, France Telecom says that it was partly to blame. Because of the group’s former status as part of government, 66,000 or 65% of its employees are classed as civil servants, with guaranteed tenure. Unable to fire them, France Telecom instead subjected them to a system called “Time to Move”, in which they were obliged to change offices and jobs abruptly every few years.
“The former management needed to change the nature of peoples’ jobs due to technological change and increased competition,” says Mr Richard, “but the company underestimated the consequences.” For the first time in 15 years, he has promised, France Telecom will expand its workforce. Job and office moves will become voluntary, and up to 30% of the variable pay of the firm’s top 1,100 managers will be tied to their “social” performance. Other measures include making France Telecom’s numerous offices more pleasant: the company will renovate 800 of its buildings and create 270 new “conviviality spaces” for employees.
Mr Richard, a former board member, joined the firm in 2009 as heir apparent to Mr Lombard, with the blessing of the government, which still holds a 27% stake. He was not due to take over until next year, but the handover was accelerated in the midst of the crisis. In an unusual outburst last week, Louis-Pierre Wenes, the group’s former deputy chief executive, who resigned under pressure last year, told a British website that “external stakeholders” in France Telecom had taken advantage of the suicides to advance their agenda. Mr Lombard was not close to the current administration, whereas Mr Richard is.
2009年Richard以董事身份加入电信集团，政府指定他接任Lombard的位置，现在他仍有27%的股份。他本打算明年接手公司，不料自杀潮造成的危机促成了权力交接。去年，前任副总裁Louis-Pierre Wenes迫于压力辞职 ，他在上周向一家英国网站披露了不寻常的内幕：法国电信的某位股东，利用自杀事件夺取公司管理权。现在Richard所在的管理层将Lombard排除在外。
“Stéphane Richard is far more attuned to the market than Didier Lombard,” says Xavier Niel, founder of Iliad, a young telecoms firm which has upended the French broadband market. “Under his management France Telecom will become a more dangerous competitor for us.” Already, while at the finance ministry, Mr Richard demonstrated a strong belief in the beneficial effects of competition by helping Iliad obtain a mobile licence in the face of fierce resistance from the incumbents and their political allies.
Xavier Niel是伊里亚特公司的创建者。这家公司成立时间不长，却逆转性地掌握了法国的宽带业务。Xavier Niel这样评价Richard：“在把握市场这方面，Didier Lombard远逊于Stéphane Richard。在他的领导下，法国电信会成长为更具威胁性的对手。”当Richard还在财政部供职时，曾协力伊里亚特公司取得3G牌照，尽管面对当局和政治同盟的重重阻力，Richard仍公开表示支持，他深信这样做有利于市场竞争。
In the past, says Mr Richard, France Telecom, having recruited most of the graduates of the X-Corps des Telecoms, the most elite stream of telecoms students, “thought there were few skills or knowledge on telecoms outside France Telecom”. Engineers still tend to call the shots, rather than marketing types. Whereas Iliad offers just one kind of set-top box, he points out, the equivalent product from France Telecom appears in 140 different types and generations, resulting in far too much complexity for users. “We must not lose our superiority in technology, research and development and innovation,” he says, “but we need to be more marketing-oriented and mindful of customers”.
With its premium products and pricing in France, which provides two-thirds of its cashflow, France Telecom’s market share and profits are being eroded by newcomers such as Iliad, which will launch its new mobile service in 2012. The firm’s shares performed far worse than those of its European peers in 2009, says Antoine Pradayrol of Exane BNP Paribas, a brokerage. Investors want to know how Mr Richard will fend off France Telecom’s rivals as well as how he will cheer up its staff.
凭着优质的产品和有竞争力的价格，法国电信在国内的收入占到运作资金的2/3。然而，外来者正在蚕食国内市场份额和利润，比如伊里亚特就将在2012年推出新的3G服务。法巴银行证券部门的股票交易人Antoine Pradayrol 说，2009年法国电信的股票表现十分甚差，远逊于欧洲同行。投资者迫切想知道Richard如何击败竞争对手，重振公司士气。