Finmeccanica chairman quits, powers handed to CEO


Italian defence group Finmeccanica SpA said it had appointed its chief executive, Giuseppe Orsi, as chairman of the group after Pier Francesco Guarguaglini resigned from the position amid a growing corruption probe.

Finmeccanica, part of the Eurofighter consortium alongside EADS and Britain’s BAE Systems, said Orsi will also retain his position as CEO while Alessandro Pansa has been confirmed as Managing Director.

The board is complete under the rearrangement, a solution aimed at increasing stability by avoiding the need for more appointments in the near future, a political source close to the matter told Reuters.

Finmeccanica, which is 32 percent owned by the state, is involved in a long-running probe centring on accusations of false invoices and slush funds to bribe politicians.

The investigation has emerged as the first big headache involving a company for fledgling Prime Minister Mario Monti, whose government of unelected technocrats took office in November to tackle Italy’s debt crisis.

Guarguaglini, who had been in the job since 2002, had previously resisted calls to step down from the helm of the loss-making company, the second-largest Italian industrial group after car maker Fiat (FIA.MI).

He was known to be at odds with Orsi over how to revamp the group, which has 75,000 workers worldwide and at one stage was in the frame to sell helicopters to the U.S. administration.

Monti had called for a “rapid and responsible” solution to the Finmeccanica problem but said he did not want to interfere directly in its management.

Finmeccanica said in a separate statement on Thursday that Guarguaglini would receive about 4 million euros by way of a golden handshake for the early termination of his contract.

He will also receive 1.5 million euros at the end of a 12-month period in which he agrees “not to undertake any activity in the defence sector in Europe, Asia and the U.S. that would place him in competition with the activities of Finmeccanica.”

Guarguaglini, 74, and his wife Marina Grossi, who is chief executive of Finmeccanica subsidiary Selex Sistemi Integrati, are under investigation as part of the probe. Both deny wrongdoing.

Three people have been arrested on corruption allegations involving state air traffic services group ENAV and Selex Sistemi Integrati.

Last month, Guarguaglini’s right-hand man Lorenzo Borgogni stepped aside after being put under investigation.

Guarguaglini did not chair the board meeting in November that signed off Finmeccanica’s nine-month results, which showed a net loss due to writedowns and sent its shares down 20 percent. [ID:nL5E7MF3SP]

Shares in Finmeccanica closed up 2.68 percent at about 3.3 euros on Thursday ahead of the management change announcement, while Italy’s blue-chip .FTMIB index ended down 0.16 percent.