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By | Kelly Fiveash 29th May 2008 10:56

Atos Origin buries hatchet with rebel shareholders

Chairman's exit ends bitter feud

Atos Origin and its two largest shareholders yesterday ended their ugly public row over the firm’s management and biz strategy after chairman Didier Cherpitel resigned.

Jean-Philippe Thierry, who is currently president of insurance firm AGF Holding, will succeed Cherpitel at the French IT services company.

Atos said it had agreed to compromise with investment funds Centaurus Capital Ltd and Pardus Capital Management by reaching a deal that was “in the best interest of the company, its employees, its clients, and all stakeholders”.

The agreement follows months of bitter wrangles between Atos management and the funds, which hold a combined stake of more than 23 per cent in the firm.

Just last week CEO Philippe Germond was forced to suspend the firm’s annual general meeting (AGM) amid chaotic scenes in which a dispute kicked off over votes of the company’s employee shareholding fund.

In March enraged Centaurus and Pardus shareholders wrote an open letter to Atos. They criticised Atos bosses following the publication of the board's draft resolution for its AGM, grumbling that they had “lost faith” in the management team’s ability to pursue “serious discussions with interested strategic parties".

The rebel shareholders had also vowed to fight the firm’s refusal to grant them representation on the board.

The IT services outfit had been in talks with potential buyers last year before cutting loose and deciding to go it alone, much to the chagrin of Centaurus and Pardus, both of whom had called for the firm to seek tie-ups with other companies.

But yesterday, in a joint statement, both parties said they had drawn a line under their “past disagreement”.

Atos and the funds agreed to “support, recommend and vote” in favour of a nine-member supervisory structure, made up of seven independent members and one rep each from Centaurus and Pardus.

Shareholders will be able to give the new board structure their nod of approval at the firm’s rescheduled AGM on 12 June. ®

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