Franco Bernabe resigns GSMA chairmanship

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Telenor CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas to step in until permanent replacement is found.

As anticipated, the GSMA on Wednesday announced that chairman Franco Bernabe has stepped down with immediate effect.

The GSMA’s current deputy chairman, Telenor CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas, will fill in as chairman until the industry body’s members elect a permanent replacement. The process is expected to be completed in November.

“On behalf of the entire GSMA Board, I would like to express our deep gratitude to Franco for his leadership and commitment over the last three years,” said GSMA director general Anne Bouverot, in a statement.

“Franco has been a passionate advocate for a forward-looking and collaborative approach in addressing the challenges facing our industry, and it has been a privilege to work with him,” she continued. “I am now looking forward to working with Jon Fredrik, our board and our membership to enable simple and secure digital services for men and women around the world.

Bernabe was first elected to a two-year term in December 2010, and was re-elected in December last year.

His departure comes less than two weeks after he resigned as chairman and CEO of Telecom Italia.

Bernabe took on the CEO job at Telecom Italia in 2008. During his difficult tenure, the Italian incumbent’s share price fell 60%.

The telco remains under pressure to reduce its hefty debt burden – which stood at €28.8 billion at the end of the first half of 2013 – and shore up its finances.

Bernabe’s resignation was met with pessimism by two major ratings firms.

Fitch warned of continued short-term uncertainty over Telecom Italia’s credit profile in the absence of a firm plan to improve its balance sheet. A week later Moody’s downgraded Telecom Italia’s credit rating to junk status.