Christel Heydemann, new boss of Orange, will have to launch several major projects

For the first time in the history of Orange, a woman will lead the group. Convened at 9 a.m. on Friday January 28, the board of directors of the former France Telecom approved the appointment of Christel Heydemann as general manager. The current leader of Schneider Electric in Europe will take office on April 4, in place of Stéphane Richard. The latter, in office since 2010, had not planned to let go of the controls so soon. But his conviction on appeal in the Tapie case, on November 24, 2021, precipitated the search for a successor.

Because if Stéphane Richard is not impeded in his duties, the State, Orange’s largest shareholder with 23% of the capital, had difficulty seeing how he could continue to lead the telecommunications operator after such a conviction, which is moreover when the group needed a new lease of life. Its turnover, in fact, has only increased by 4% since 2016. “I know that the challenges are major”admits Christel Heydemann in a press release.

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Apart from a stint at Alcatel-Lucent between 1999 and 2014, including two years as director of human resources, and a seat on the board of directors of Orange since 2017, Christel Heydemann is not a telecom specialist. It is precisely the fresh eye of this 47-year-old polytechnician who allowed her, with the support of the State shareholder, to get ahead of the other contenders, in particular internal ones, such as the financial director, Ramon Fernandez, or the boss of ‘Orange France, Fabienne Dulac. His social fiber also played in his favor, for a group still deeply marked by the “suicide crisis” of 2008-2009, and when the appeal trial of the then CEO, Didier Lombard, will open in May, and several frames.

Pressure from other operators

Daughter of a centralien engineer and a normalienne university professor, “Christel explains that she did Polytechnique, because she had facilities in mathematics and physics”, confides Julien Damon, scientific advisor to the National School of Social Security. He got to know her when he jointly wrote a report on the “French model of reconciliation between the lives of children, the lives of parents and the life of companies”, submitted in 2021 to the Minister of Labor, Elisabeth Borne. A subject to which the former HRD, mother of two young boys born of her union with André Loesekrug-Pietri, director of the Joint European Disruptive Initiative (JEDI), an initiative which brings together research centers, start-ups and technology groups, in France and Germany. “But Christel especially likes to bring organizations to life. She has the qualities forassures Julien Damon. “She got involved and understood very quickly a complicated file that was not in her usual spectrum. »

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