PARIS — The board of Thales has named Jean-Bernard Lévy as chairman and chief executive of the defense electronics company, succeeding Luc Vigneron, the company announced Dec. 20.
Vigneron tendered his resignation at a board meeting as he acknowledged a lack of support of the two main shareholders, Thales said in a statement. Dassault Aviation and the government own 26 percent and 27 percent of Thales, respectively.
“At this same meeting, the board of directors co-opted Mr. Jean-Bernard Lévy as a director and subsequently elected him to the position of chairman and chief executive officer of Thales,” the company said.
The head of the Direction Générale de l’Armement procurement office, Laurent Collet-Billon, paid tribute to the departing chief executive when he told journalists Dec. 19 that Vigneron had continued to grow Thales’ sales, and resolved the company’s major problems on the A400M airlifter and Turkish Meltem maritime patrol aircraft program.
“The board thanked Luc Vigneron for the work he has accomplished for Thales since his appointment, particularly the upturn in profitability and the improvement in the way it manages its contracts,” the company said.
Vigneron was forced out as labor unions complained publicly over his reforms, including putting the head of the staff department under the operations director, a move seen as downgrading the importance of the employees.
“The task of rallying the Thales workforce around a plan that is both motivational and visionary now falls to the future leadership team,” the Association du Personnel Actionnaire de Thales (APAT), a staff shareholders association, said in a statement.
The association laid out demands, including the need for a clear strategy that is understood by all; regular dialogue between management and all shareholders; management practices that recognize collective intelligence within a strict ethical framework; and a permanent policy to guarantee that at least 5 percent of Thales is owned by the staff.
“In view of the above, APAT will work diligently with the new management team, and with shareholders, to fully accomplish its mission as a partner in the future of the company so that Thales may retain a central role in any future industry restructuring,” the association said.
On industrial restructuring, Dassault Executive Chairman Charles Edelstenne dismissed Dec. 19 talk of combining Dassault, Thales and Safran into a group dubbed France Aerospace. “Forget it,” he told a press conference on the Neuron combat UAV demonstrator program.
Edelstenne told journalists that the Dec. 20 board meeting would appoint Lévy as chairman and chief executive.
Lévy said in a statement, “In the global marketplace, Thales has all the strengths needed to play a leading role. I know I can count on the energy and commitment of all to meet the challenges ahead and work together to develop our group.”
Lévy was chief executive of Vivendi until this summer, when a dispute over strategy with the supervisory board forced him out of the French media group. Vivendi owns the Universal Music Group, Canal+ pay TV and the SFR mobile phone network.
Lévy is a graduate of the élite Polytéchnique engineering school, worked as adviser to government minister Gérard Longuet, and joined the Matra company, where he worked on space satellites.