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Understanding Thierry Breton: What Thierry Did Next…

Posted in Europe, Finance at 9:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Understanding Thierry Breton

Further parts pending review and research

Thierry Breton at Atos

Summary: “Whether by coincidence or not, when Atos announced in 2010 that it would acquire Siemens’ IT unit, it was the 32-year-old Macron at Rothschild who advised Breton on the deal.”

The wikipedia.org entry for Thierry Breton describes his departure from political office and his return to the world of private enterprise as follows:

“After two years of government service (2005–2007) he became in November 2008 the active chairman and CEO of Atos S.A., formerly Atos Origin. On the announcement of his nomination the share price, which was previously valued at 18 euros, rose by 7.84%.”

Well that’s nice to know, isn’t it?

“At the time of writing, the website is offline probably in an attempt to block any inquisitive researchers while Thierry’s candidacy for EU Commissioner is under scrutiny.”But what exactly was Thierry up to between May 2007 when he left Bercy and November 2008 when he moved into the CEO’s office at Atos?

According to Wikipedia, after leaving the government, Breton “briefly worked as professor at Harvard Business School (2007–2008) where he taught Leadership and Corporate Accountability (LCA).”

This is corroborated by the Financial Times report of 11 July 2007: “French finance minister heads for Harvard”.

Breton’s own website confirms the Harvard story. At the time of writing, the website is offline probably in an attempt to block any inquisitive researchers while Thierry’s candidacy for EU Commissioner is under scrutiny.

Thierry is offline
The website https://thierry-breton.com is currently inaccessible.
Is somebody trying to hide something?

However, with the help of Google’s web cache of the site we learn the following:

“Most recently, before joining Atos, he was a professor at Harvard Business School, teaching leadership and corporate accountability.”

“Thankfully we have the French establishment mouthpiece Les Echos to help us join the dots.”But there is a gap in the narrative. One small but interesting detail is missing…

Thankfully we have the French establishment mouthpiece Les Echos to help us join the dots.

In September 2007, Les Echos informed its readers that the former Minister for the Economy had taken up a position as a “senior advisor” with the renowned French bank Rothschild & Cie: Thierry Breton devient « senior advisor » chez Rothschild

Rothschild and Cie

At Rothschild & Cie, Breton was part of a team of three senior advisers that included the chairman of Rothschild’s German branch, Klaus Mangold, who from 2007 to 2019 sat on the board of directors of Alstom S.A., a French multinational company operating worldwide in rail transport markets, active in the fields of passenger transportation, signalling and locomotives.

Shortly after Breton moved to Rothschild & Cie, an up-and-coming boy-wonder by the name of Emmanuel Macron decided to leave the security of his civil service post at the Ministry for the Economy, to take up a more dynamic private sector job at the this prestigious financial institution.

“Whether by coincidence or not, when Atos announced in 2010 that it would acquire Siemens’ IT unit, it was the 32-year-old Macron at Rothschild who advised Breton on the deal.”Macron, a graduate of the elite ENA, had worked at the Inspection générale des finances (IGF), a key department of the Ministry for the Economy, between 2004 and 2007. This overlaps with Breton’s term of office as Minister so it’s a fair bet that their paths already crossed at some point during that time.

Whether by coincidence or not, when Atos announced in 2010 that it would acquire Siemens’ IT unit, it was the 32-year-old Macron at Rothschild who advised Breton on the deal.

In August 2014 Macron departed from the private sector to enter the political arena as Minister for Economy in the Socialist government of Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

We will revisit the Macron connection later on but for the moment let’s stick with Breton’s post-ministerial business career at Atos.

In 2008 Atos had 50,000 employees and generated a sales revenue of € 5.5 billion but according to Breton it was “managed too compartmentally” and the company’s inferior profitability margins relative to its competitors required a complete transformation plan.

It was another golden opportunity for the “turnaround king” to flex his managerial muscles.

In July 2011, with a little help from his “friends” at Rothschild & Cie, Breton orchestrated the acquisition of the IT activities of German industry group Siemens.

“It was another golden opportunity for the “turnaround king” to flex his managerial muscles.”This elevated Atos to rank number one among the European IT services players and in the Top 5 worldwide, with 75,000 employees in 42 countries.

The deal, valued at € 850 million, was the biggest Franco-German transaction since an alliance between Germany’s premium carmaker Daimler and France’s Renault established in 2010. The move was greeted by the financial markets and the Atos share price rose by 11.6%.

With the integration of 28,000 Siemens employees Atos became one of the most important Franco-German industrial collaborations since Airbus, manifested by a financial partnership (Siemens took 15% of Atos’ capital), and a common investment fund of 100 million euros was created as well as a joint response to international tenders. This strategy was awarded the prize for Industrial cooperation by the Franco-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

In 2012 Breton adopted the Societas Europaea legal form for Atos which gave the company two headquarters, one in France and a second in Munich, Germany.

In parallel, he participated in other European institutional projects in which the Franco-German partnership played a central role such as the European Commission’s European Cloud Partnership (2012–2014) over which he co-presided with Jim Snabe, the joint CEO of the German software company SAP.

In May 2014 Breton initiated the takeover of French IT industry player Bull, where he had first made his mark as a “turnaround wizard” in the 1990s. The aim was to turn Atos into a global player in Big Data and Cybersecurity and to enable Atos to position itself in the supercomputing segment by becoming the sole European manufacturer of such equipment.

“This elevated Atos to rank number one among the European IT services players and in the Top 5 worldwide, with 75,000 employees in 42 countries.”Six months later Atos announced the acquisition of Xerox’s IT outsourcing activities along with a strategic partnership with the American company. This operation made Atos one of the five largest digital companies in the world.

Within the space of six years the company had doubled in size to a headcount of around 100,000 employees.

By May 2015 the company’s market capitalization had risen to € 7.29 billion euros, an increase of more than € 5 billion compared with November 2008 when Breton took over as CEO. The market share price of Atos grew by 268% in five years.

But the success story of Atos has a darker side which is likely to be familiar to UK readers.

“But the success story of Atos has a darker side which is likely to be familiar to UK readers.”Along with other big corporate “service providers” like Serco, G4S, Capita, Amey and Carillion, Atos was one of the main beneficiaries of government largesse in the area of public service “outsourcing” during the late 1990s and the first decade and a half of the new millenium.

In the next part we will take a look at how Atos became a toxic brand in the UK because of its dubious role in assessing disability benefit eligibility.

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