By Stephen Jewkes and Stefano Rebaudo
MILAN (Reuters) – Veteran Italian manager Luigi Gubitosi is seen ahead in the race to become the new chief executive of Italy’s biggest telecoms group Telecom Italia (TIM) <TLIT.MI>, two sources familiar with the matter said.
Telecom Italia on Tuesday lost its third boss in the span of two years when CEO Amos Genish was sacked while he was away on business in Asia.
Genish had been appointed last year to run the underperforming former monopoly by TIM’s then controlling shareholder, French media group Vivendi <VIV.PA>.
Since then however directors backed by activist U.S. fund Elliott have wrested control of the board.
TIM’s board meets on Sunday to appoint Genish’s successor.
One of the sources said Gubitosi had the full backing of Elliott and state lender CDP, which earlier this year took a stake in TIM, siding with Elliott in the boardroom coup against Vivendi.
A second source said Gubitosi could count on a majority of board votes at present but added the situation could still change before Sunday.
Telecom Italia was not immediately available for a comment.
Gubitosi is currently one the commissioners managing loss-making state carrier Alitalia.
The chief financial officer of car maker Fiat until 2005, Gubitosi is pitted against Alfredo Altavilla, who until recently was also a top manager at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles <FCHA.MI>.
Both Gubitosi – who also headed telecoms group Wind – and Altavilla sit on TIM’s board as independent directors proposed by Elliott.
The first source said the name of Rocco Sabelli, a former head of Alitalia, was also “drifting around.”
Telecom Italia has given no reason for Genish’s abrupt exit.
Genish had been pursuing a three-year turnaround plan, focusing on a digital transformation and fixing TIM’s finances, but sources say some Elliott directors wanted him to put higher priority on a possible spin-off of its fixed-line networks.
The spin-off could pave the way for the creation of a single broadband infrastructure company combining TIM’s network with that of smaller fibre-optic rival Open Fiber.
The populist 5-Star Movement, which took office with ruling coalition partner the League in June, has placed the creation of a fast broadband network at the heart of its industrial policy.
A document seen by Reuters on Friday showed Italy was set to introduce measures to help create a single broadband infrastructure company.
(Reporting by Steve Jewkes and Stefano Rebaudo; Writing by Valentina Za; Editing by Andrew Heavens)