Ousted Telecom Italia CEO Says He Was Misled by ‘Dysfunctional’ Board

(Bloomberg) -- Amos Genish says he was duped.

Sent on a business trip to Asia over the weekend, the Telecom Italia SpA chief executive officer learned on a hastily summoned conference call in the early hours of Tuesday in Europe that he was out of his job. Genish was canned by a board stacked with representatives from Elliott Management Corp., the activist investor that had become increasingly weary of the former army captain turned executive.

While Genish dialed in from South Korea, he bemoaned that he didn’t get a fair fight at a board meeting arranged behind his back.

“It was not a clean process,” Genish, who is also a board member at the former Italian monopoly, said in a phone interview. His dismissal is “very disappointing” and “unusual” and not aligned with the best practices of corporate governance, he said.

The unceremonious way in which Genish was let go was the culmination of a growing alienation between the executive and Elliott, the carrier’s second-largest investor. Genish, appointed by Telecom Italia’s top shareholder Vivendi SA in September 2017, has been caught between the two warring investors ever since Elliott won board control in May.

As recently as Sunday, the company publicly denied that a meeting was scheduled to discuss the CEO’s fate. By the time the call wrapped up just before 9 a.m. Milan time on Tuesday, he was out of a job and Telecom Italia was looking for its fifth CEO in as many years.

Genish said he’s had trouble working with the board of the embattled carrier for many months and that the environment had become “dysfunctional.” The former Israeli military officer said he’s “extremely worried” about Telecom Italia’s future and that he expects “volatile times” ahead with the board controlled by Elliott, with the activist investor pushing for a breakup of the group.

A representative for Telecom Italia didn’t have an immediate comment.

Genish, who is set to keep his seat on the board, said he will continue to defend the interest of the company as a director.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.