Price war Frees up SFR's boss

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Price war Frees up SFR's boss

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The search is on for a new boss for SFR, France’s second largest mobile phone company, as a brutal price wars claimed its first victim.

After SFR lost 200,000 customers to new rival Free, Frank Esser is stepping down as chief executive.

Esser had been in that job for 10 years and his departure was a sign that the game changed with the launch of Iliad’s low-cost ‘Free Mobile’ service in mid-January.

It is estimated Free has signed up around two million clients since then.

The head of Vivendi, Jean-Bernard Lévy, will temporarily replace Esser with the task of trying to woo back customers.

He has a big personal stake in overcoming the problems as last year Vivendi paid 7.7 billion euros for the 44 percent stake in SFR previously owned by Vodafone.

Euronew’s business correspondent in Paris, Gianni Magi, said: “After years of being pretty much in balance, the French mobile market was shaken to the core by Free, who had already upset the fixed line business. SFR’s chief executive is the first to be hit, but other telecoms operators are being deeply affected by Free’s revolution and Frank Esser could be just the first of many.”