It is now official: after a hotly contested procedure, Christel Heydemann was appointed this Friday morning CEO of Orange, following a board meeting of the incumbent operator. Orange’s senior management was delighted with this appointment, indicating “having chosen a personality with recognized skills in the world of telecoms and business transformation”.
At 47, the one who until now held the position of boss of Schneider Electric Europe, will be the first woman to occupy this very exposed position. She succeeds the current CEO of Orange Stéphane Richard, who will continue to act as non-executive chairman until the arrival of a new chairman, and at the latest until May 19, 2022. date of the Orange General Meeting.
While the current CEO of Orange had to resign at the end of 2021 following a conviction in the Tapie case, Orange management wanted to salute his action at the head of the incumbent operator. The Board of Directors of Orange thus “thanked him for his commitment at the head of Orange for 12 years, where he restored the confidence of employees after the social crisis and initiated a profound transformation of the Group to position it as a leading multi-service operator in Europe and Africa”.
The appointment of Christel Heydemann marks the end of a series of several months to find out the identity of Stéphane Richard’s successor at the head of Orange. After having won the favors of the State – shareholder of Orange up to 23% – the leader had succeeded in recent weeks in taking the best of the other candidates for the general management of the operator, in this case Frank Boulben, director of Verizon, and Ramon Fernandez, the financial director of Orange, after a particularly indecisive recruitment campaign.
A well-stocked CV
“I know that the challenges are major, but it is also a huge honor to contribute to the development of one of the major players in the telecom industry. I will invest myself fully at the head of Orange. And I know I can count, like my predecessor, on the strength and commitment of the teams to support the company towards success,” said the engineer following this appointment. The current Chief Operating Officer of Schneider Electric Europe, an engineer with a degree from the Ecole Polytechnique and the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées with a well-stocked CV, will find at Orange a telecoms sector that she has already known from from 1999 with his time at Alcatel.
In 2008, she was appointed commercial director for France and member of the management committee of Alcatel-France, before taking over the management of the group’s human resources in 2011, where she was in particular at the helm of a major restructuring wingspan. And if the leader later moved away from the telecoms market to join Schneider Electric in 2014, where she now holds the position of general manager of the group’s French and European operations, the latter did not have everything has completely set sail, she who has held the position of administrator of Orange for five years.
His experience, Christel Heydemann will have to mobilize it to face all the next challenges of Orange internationally and on the French market. In France, the next few months are likely to be busy for the incumbent operator, which is currently continuing to deploy its fiber and 5G networks in the territory.
An already busy schedule
While fiber has already found its audience – Orange recently passed the six million fiber subscriber mark in France – this is not the case for the new generation of mobile technology, which is still struggling to to be adopted by the general public or professionals. According to the latest figures delivered by Arcep, France had only 1.6 million 5G subscribers at the end of September 2021, all operators combined. While the latter have obviously lowered their ambitions, aiming for 2 million subscribers by mid-2022, the new leader of Orange will be responsible in particular for accelerating the adoption of this 5G, the frequencies of which have been purchased at the end of 2020 at exorbitant prices by market players.
Among the other hot topics that the engineer will have to manage is the thorny issue of the copper rocker. This project should lead Orange to remove the million kilometers of cables from this aging network while deploying its fiber network throughout the country. A difficult exercise, while the situation is critical in a certain number of territories – such as Corsica, Drôme, Pays de la Loire or Ardèche – where the deployment of fiber is still only a mirage and which essentially depend on a copper network in poor condition for their connectivity.
That’s not all: Christel Heydemann will also have his work cut out for him in terms of the internal organization of Orange, which has already suffered a few major departures. In particular that of Helmut Reisinger, the boss of Orange Business Services (OBS), the B to B subsidiary of the operator, who passed the baton to Aliette Mousnier-Lompré, the director of operations and customer service of OBS.
Other departures could also affect the group, while senior executives such as Fabienne Dulac, CEO of Orange France, and Alioune Ndiaye, CEO of Orange Africa Middle East, are given as possible starters. Finally, the leader should also have to manage the social aspect, while Orange is currently preparing a vast plan to modernize its organization, which could lead to a future wave of departures from the side of the incumbent operator… the program s he announcement is already loaded for the successor to Stéphane Richard.