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Thomson Multimedia Shuffles Its Board

Due in part to divestitures by some strategic partners, Thomson Multimedia (TMM) reorganized its board of directors, adding several independent directors.

The move was made in anticipation of expected changes in corporate governance practices worldwide, the company said.

Following the divestiture of Alcatel, NEC and DirecTV from Thomson’s share capital, their representatives resigned from the board. However, Eddy Hartenstein, chairman of DirecTV, was invited to continue as a member by the board in a personal capacity.

Two additional independent board members were named — Igor Landau and Pierre Lescure. Landau is chairman of the management board of Aventis, a pharmaceutical company. Lescure is a veteran of the media and content industry, markets in which Thomson generates almost 40 percent of sales, according to Thomson.

The divestitures have not changed some of the joint venture projects between TMM and the investors but some of those plans have been significantly scaled back from what was envisioned when the equity stakes were purchased in 1998.

Those investments followed the purchase of 100 percent of the company by the French government in 1997, rather than allowing the sale of the company to Korea’s Daewoo Electronics.

Alcatel, Microsoft and NEC each took 6.8 percent equity stakes in TMM, while DirecTV took a 5.2 percent position.

Initially, NEC, which has now shaved its stake down to 1 percent, said the two companies would merge their plasma display panel production programs. But last year, Thomson stepped away from that arrangement, opting to continue sourcing PDPs from NEC for its consumer sales.

Alcatel, which has divested its entire TMM stake, remains a joint venture partner. The two companies merged their telephone businesses into the Atlinks company, which continues to be the world’s largest telephone supplier.

DirecTV, which divested all of its TMM stake several weeks ago, continues to be a major TMM customer for direct broadcast satellite operation equipment, although TMM now also produces equipment for the EchoStar platform.

Microsoft still holds a 4.25 percent equity position in TMM. It purchases key components from TMM for the Xbox game console, while TMM’s Technicolor unit is a major Xbox game disc replicator and distributor.

“Each company has had a role to play [in TMM], some have been more successful than others, but the companies that have sold their shares felt it was time to capitalize on their investments,” a company spokesperson said.

Also at the meeting in which the board changes were approved, the members reviewed current trading conditions. Thomson noted that it would make no changes to its full-year revenue targets, or profitability guidance, issued in its half-year results in July. Many of the key trends of the first half, including currency movements, have continued into the third quarter. Third quarter sales will be published on Oct. 8.