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BREAKING NEWS

Benettons set to shake up Atlantia as bridge probe escalates

Benettons set to shake up Atlantia as bridge probe escalates
FILE PHOTO: Autostrade per l'Italia Chief Executive Giovanni Castellucci gestures during a news conference about the collapsed Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy August 18, 2018. REUTERS/Massimo Pinca/File Photo -
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Massimo Pinca(Reuters)
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By Francesca Landini and Elisa Anzolin

MILAN (Reuters) – The Benetton family is set to replace the powerful head of Atlantia <ATL.MI> with an executive committee and co-opt a right-hand man to help steer the infrastructure group through fallout from a deadly bridge collapse, three sources said.

The collapse last year of a bridge in Genoa claiming 43 lives brought Atlantia under heavy political pressure, with the ruling coalition 5-Star Movement calling for it to be stripped of its motorway concession.

Giovanni Castellucci, who has been chief executive of Benetton-controled Atlantia since 2006, is expected to hand in his resignation at a board meeting later on Tuesday, the sources close to the matter said.

“The idea of setting up an executive committee would offer good support,” one of the sources said, adding the company might also decide to appoint a temporary managing director.

Another source said that Gianni Mion, a veteran manager who has long been close to the Benettons and who heads the family’s holding company Edizione, could be appointed to the board.

Castellucci and other top managers at the infrastructure group are under investigation for the Genoa bridge collapse, along with officials at Italy’s transport ministry.

After the Genoa disaster, Castellucci left a top job at Atlantia’s motorway unit Autostrade per l’Italia while remaining at the helm of the parent group and continuing to be directly involved in all major issues.

MENDINGFENCES

Last year he masterminded a multibillion-euro merger with Spain’s Abertis and was negotiating a potential investment by Atlantia in the rescue of flagship carrier Alitalia.

His hands-on approach could make a replacement problematic, analysts said.

“Castellucci’s exit could be negative since he’s the one behind Atlantia’s growth, is appreciated by the market and is directly involved in all the main negotiations,” Stefano Gamberini, analyst at Equita brokerage, said in a note.

A management shake-up could, however, help to mend fences with the Italian government and fend off the threat of losing its valuable motorway concession.

Autostrade per l’Italia, which counts Chinese fund Silk Road and Allianz <ALVG.DE> among its investors, runs half of Italy’s 6,000 kms (3,728 miles) of toll roads and generates a third of Atlantia’s core profit.

Castellucci was reappointed CEO at Atlantia last May with a new three-year mandate.

But news on Friday that Italy’s police had evidence safety reports for some viaducts operated by Autostrade other than the Genoa bridge had been falsified or information omitted to mislead transport ministry inspectors forced a change of mind.

“That was a blow that prompted the family to pull support from Castellucci,” said one of the sources.

Atlantia is holding a board meeting on Tuesday when Castellucci is scheduled to make a statement.

At 1426 GMT Atlantia shares were up 1% after tumbling almost 8% on Monday.

(Additional reporting Stephen Jewkes; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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