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ROME — The shedding of senior management at Italy’s Finmeccanica proceeds apace, with another round of high-level exits as CEO Mauro Moretti proves true to his promise to whittle down his management team to a select few.

Middle East manager Caio Mussolini and the former head of the WASS torpedo unit, Alessandro Franzoni, have left or are leaving, while Italian media reports have claimed Antonio Perfetti, the head of MBDA Italia, is on his way out.

Moretti is slimming down the management structure at the Italian giant as he introduces a divisional structure to replace the old, frequently overlapping units that made up the group such as Selex, Alenia and AgustaWestland.

Caio Mussolini, a former Italian Navy submarine official who is also the great grandson of Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, was appointed to run Finmeccanica’s Middle East marketing operation in 2007, as the firm expanded in the region, after he had joined the firm’s Oto Melara unit in 2002.

Rising to become vice president for marketing and business development and head of the Middle East office, Mussolini was dropped in December as part of Moretti’s shake-up. Six days later, Mussolini, 47, joined UAE defense conglomerate Tawazun as a senior adviser for their autonomous systems subsidiary Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investment (ADASI).

Former Alenia staffer Andrea Di Giovanni also left Finmeccanica in 2014 to join ADASI.

Alessandro Franzoni, 55, is a 28-year veteran of the firm who worked on the F-35, UAVs and the M-346 jet trainer programs while at Alenia Aeronautica. He then moved over to run Finmeccanica’s end of its Superjet civil aircraft partnership with Sukhoi before taking over as head of torpedo unit WASS.

He is now in the process of leaving the firm following a management decision, an Italian source said. His exit occurs as WASS was merged with cannon maker Oto Melara to become Finmeccanica’s new Defense Systems Division, which is run by Oto Melara’s former chief, Roberto Cortese.

The third major change has been touted by Italian news agency Radiocor and involves Antonio Perfetti, the head of MBDA Italia, which is the Italian part of the European missiles joint venture in which Finmeccanica is a partner.

During a career spent almost entirely within the Finmeccanica group, Perfetti worked at Alenia before heading up MBDA Italia in 2009. With his mandate up for renewal in April, CEO Moretti has decided not to renew and has sent out headhunters to find a replacement, Radiocor reported.

A Finmeccanica spokesperson did not return calls for comment.

The management changes follow the departures last year of company veterans including Alenia boss Giuseppe Giordo and UK-based executive Alberto De Benedictis.

Among other departures, former UK Selex staffer Luigi Piantadosi has become the director for international business development at Lockheed Martin in London.

Anthony Fraser, who headed Finmeccanica’s Australia operation, moved to head up Airbus Group’s Australia Pacific operation last year.

Speaking last year about his streamlining of top management, Moretti said, “I have got rid of 200 managers and chosen the 10 that I need.”

One Italian analyst who declined to be named said it was rare to see so many managers leave a large company in a short period of time.

“Renewal is justified, as is bringing in your own people, but if your reorganization drops people who have been running the business, there is the risk of endangering contracts,” said the analyst.

“You also risk seeing lots of managers go straight to the competition,”  he added.

One reason for Moretti’s drive to renew his management team is the number of scandals that dogged the firm under his predecessors.

One notable episode involved the sale, without tender, of helicopters, digital mapping systems and radars to Panama for €180 million (US $198.4 million) in 2010.

Last year, after a change of government, Panama applied to its own supreme court to cancel the deal for Lyra coastal radars, following the opening of a trial in Italy at which a former Finmeccanica consultant, Walter Lavitola, was accused of offering a kickback on the deal to the former president of Panama.

A Panamanian official said last year the radars were not appropriate for spotting fast drug-running boats, something that would have emerged if the requirement had been put out to tender.

On Feb. 23, Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela said the contract with Finmeccanica had been canceled by mutual consent and that all legal actions over the case had been halted.

In a statement, Finmeccanica said the revoking of the contract was not due to the “quality” of the product, and said it would supply Panama with a helicopter free of charge.

Moretti said the deal “provides a positive resolution to the disputes with the government of Panama, as we had hoped.”

Email: tkington@defensenews.comamustafa@defensenews.com

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