Thales chairman-elect Proglio quits in spat over Russian interests

Tue May 12, 2015 9:31am EDT
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By Jean-Baptiste Vey and Jean-Michel Belot

PARIS (Reuters) - Henri Proglio gave up the chairmanship of defense group Thales (TCFP.PA: Quote) on Tuesday, bringing into the open a simmering row with Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron over the veteran French businessman's Russian interests.

Macron had this month asked the former boss of power utility EDF (EDF.PA: Quote) to cut his ties with state-owned Russian nuclear company Rosatom if he wanted the Thales role.

In an interview with Le Monde newspaper on Tuesday, Proglio announced he would not take the chairman's job and accused Macron of conducting a smear campaign.

"I have had enough of suspicion, of humiliation ... This has to stop, taking me for a puppet, a spy, a greedy man, a traitor," he was quoted as saying.

"For weeks now I have been sullied by a campaign fed by Bercy," he added, in reference to the ministry's Paris headquarters.

Proglio, 65, had survived for three years under a Socialist government as a key figure in state-controlled corporate life, despite being an appointee of a previous center-right government under former President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Against expectations, President Francois Hollande kept him on as head of EDF after taking power in 2012, and had backed him as Thales chairman when the company's other main shareholder, the Dassault family, proposed him in December.

Macron denied any campaign against Proglio, whose decision comes a day ahead of an annual shareholder meeting that would have effectively confirmed him in the Thales chairmanship.   Continued...

Henri Proglio, Chief Executive Officer of France's state-owned electricity company EDF, visits the World Nuclear Exhibition 2014, the trade fair event for the global nuclear energy sector, in Le Bourget, near Paris October 15, 2014. REUTERS/Charles Platiau