France Telecom CEO Didier Lombard has ceded to pressure to step down over his handling of the employee suicide crisis.
Lombard has proposed to resign as CEO, but retain his position as chairman, effective March 1.
He will be replaced by Stephane Richard, who became deputy CEO on January 1. He took over from Louis-Pierre Wenes, who resigned last year over the scandal.
Citing an interview with French press, AFPsaid Lombard was rueful over his handling of the suicide issue, adding that his biggest regret was “not being able to avoid the social crisis.”
According to France Telecom unions, 35 employees have committed suicide over the past two years. Several suicide notes left by the employees blamed their actions on corporate stress, worsened by the company's policy of frequent staff relocation.
Lombard has been under pressure to resign for months over the scandal. Prior to this, he had planned to cede power to Richard in June, 2011.
Insiders told FT.com that the handover was “more heavy-handed” than intended. Richard did not want to eject Lombard because he valued his experience and expertise.
Richard’s ascension to the top post was unlikely to herald a sharp change in company strategy, the FT said.