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French Tech Firm Atos Names Ex-Sprint Nextel Exec Paul Saleh as CEO

French Tech Firm Atos Names Fifth CEO in Less Than 3 Years

Atos’ CEO resigned following a disagreement over governance of the French tech firm.

Yves Bernaert is leaving the company after “an intense period of transformation for which the board is thankful,” the company announced in a Monday (Jan. 15) press release.

Taking his place will be Paul Saleh, who had been hired as Atos’ chief financial officer last year and has previously served as interim CEO at Sprint Nextel Corporation, among other positions. Jacques-François de Prest is set to join Atos as CFO Jan. 29, according to the release.

“I joined the business to run its transformation and development,” Bernaert, who was named CEO in October, said in the release. “Based on my conviction and with the support of the board, I also worked on adjusting the strategy for the benefit of the company, its employees and shareholders. Due to a difference of opinion on the governance to adjust and execute the strategy, I decided to leave the company.”

In addition to its new leadership announcement, Atos projected in the Monday release that its free cash flow for the second half of 2023 will be off target by roughly 100 million euros (about $110 million), although the company still expects to reach its full-year financial targets.

Saleh is Atos’ fifth CEO in two-and-a-half years, BNN Bloomberg reported Monday. The company is facing setbacks as it tries to split its business and make more than 2 billion euros (about $2.2 billion) in debt repayments.

The company announced last year it was in talks to sell its legacy Tech Foundations division to a private equity firm led by Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky, per the report.

Kretinsky’s EP Equity Investment (EPEI) group is negotiating to buy the Tech Foundations business of Atos in a 2-billion-euro deal. As part of the proposed deal, Atos will get 100 million euros in cash and transfer 1.9 billion euros (about $2.1 billion) worth of debt to the buyer.

“The planned sale follows months of turbulence for the company after its IT outsourcing business struggled to keep up in the cloud-based industry,” PYMNTS reported in August.

The potential sale has hit some obstacles in the wake of Atos management changes and due to French lawmakers expressing national security concerns, as the deal would involve a foreign investor becoming a key shareholder in a company with government defense contracts, per the BNN Bloomberg report.