Orange: Who is Christel Heydemann, favorite to succeed Stéphane Richard?

The final sprint for the succession of Stéphane Richard at the helm of Orange will be decided this week. Of the participants on the starting line, only Christel Heydemann, director of Schneider Electric Europe, and Ramon Fernandez, the financial director of the incumbent operator, remain after the abandonment of Frank Boulben, director of Verizon, who was doing until these last weeks figure of favorite.

Unfortunately for the latter, the favors of the State – shareholder of Orange up to 23% – now seem to go to Christel Heydemann. Of which act. In a letter sent this weekend to the Orange staff, the current Chief Revenue Officer of Verizon finally withdrew his candidacy for the general management of the operator, wishing “good luck” to his competitor.

“I understand that I did not have the support of the political authorities despite your recommendation”, writes the leader, whose project proposed in particular to refocus Orange’s activities on telecoms by promoting the use of partnerships in other markets such as cybersecurity, content or finance.

The way is clear for Christel Heydemann

The way therefore seems clear for Christel Heydemann. This should, unless the situation turns around, be appointed CEO of Orange in the next few days. 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 there a telecoms sector that she has already known from 1999 with his time at Alcatel.

In 2008, she was appointed commercial director France and member of the management committee of Alcatel-France, before taking over the group’s human resources department in 2011, where she was notably at the helm of a large-scale restructuring.

The leader then moved away from the telecom market somewhat to join Schneider Electric in 2014, as director of strategic alliances, where she was responsible for developing an ecosystem of partners based on IoT (internet of things) solutions promoted by the multinational. Since May 2021, she has held the position of General Manager of French and European operations at Schneider Electric.

What about the presidency of Orange?

Still, the latter always had a foothold in the telecom market … and in particular Orange, where she has held the position of administrator for five years. What to see in the leader the designated successor to the current boss of the operator? This is the bet that the executive seems to have made, which has supported his candidacy in recent weeks, when the latter had already won the favor of Bercy.

While the arrival of Christel Heydemann at the general management of Orange could be formalized at the end of the week, it now remains to know the identity of his “pair” at the presidency of the incumbent operator. For now, Stéphane Richard should continue to perform these functions until the appointment of his successor next May. Among the presumed candidates for this function are notably Sébastien Crozier, president of the CFE-CGC of Orange and administrator of the operator, but also Pascal Cagni, currently at the head of the Business France agency and Jacques Aschenbroich, the boss of automotive supplier Valeo.

As a reminder, Stéphane Richard had seen his adventure at the head of Orange come to an end after being sentenced on appeal to a one-year suspended prison sentence and a 50,000 euro fine at the end of last year. The leader had been found guilty of complicity in the embezzlement of public funds in the Crédit Lyonnais arbitration process, at the end of which the businessman Bernard Tapie had received some 400 million euros in 2008, following of the sale of Adidas by the banking group.

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