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Tele Columbus shareholder moves to take control of board

Tele Columbus HQ

Tele Columbus largest shareholder United Internet has called for a wholesale change in the struggling cable operator’s board after expressing its frustration with the company’s performance.

United Internet, which holds a 29.7% stake in the German number three cable operator, said it had proposed candidates with “the necessary expertise and experience” to “meet the challenges” that Tele Columbus faces in a competitive market.

United Internet has nominated Claus Beck, chief technology officer of 1&1 Versatel and a former director of network engineering and VP of engineering at Liberty Global, Hüseyin Dogan, chief operating officer of United Internet-owned 1&1 Ionos and Strato AG, Susan Hennersdorf, former head of marketing and sales at EnBW and former head consumer sales at Vodafone Deutschland, who is currently a Tele Columbus board member, Stefan Rasch, a senior partner at Boston Consulting Group, Volder Ruloff, former chief financial officer at Vodafone Deutschland and Michael Scheeren, its own former CFO and current United Internet supervisory board member, to replace the current six-strong supervisory board.

United Internet said that it was “concerned” about Tele Columbus’s performance. The company has seen its stock price fall by 80% from its IPO level four years ago and has dropped out of the SDAX index. EBITDA for Q1 dropped by 13.1%.

Tele Columbus’s current board is fighting the bid to wrest control. The company issued a statement to the effect that “many shareholders” had expressed concern about the independence of the board and support for the current line-up.

Tele Columbus said that two of the candidates nominated by United Internet had a conflict of interest because of their positions within the United Internet group, arguing that their nominated contradicted the recommendations of the German corporate governance code.

The current board said it willing to expand the size of the supervisory board from six to nine “to give United Internet the opportunity to present three candidates”.

Chairman André Krause said that the board was seeking to “further advance the transformation and reorientation” of the business and that it was “convinced that our proposal to expand the supervisory board will provide a satisfactory solution for all shareholders of the company and a balanced representation”.