RealTime IT News

First Kinsella, Now Besnainou Leaves Tiscali

[London, ENGLAND] Following last week's resignation of Chief Executive James Kinsella, European ISP Tiscali has also lost Pierre Besnainou, the founder and chairman of its acquisition target Liberty Surf.

French ISP Liberty Surf with its 0.8 million users agreed last month to be taken over by Tiscali in a US $600 million deal, currently in the process of being finalized.

Tiscali has grand European ambitions, but its top management has disagreed recently over how to achieve them. Renato Soru, executive chairman and chief executive officer, said the acquisition of Excite Italia -- announced earlier this week -- was an important step toward becoming "the Internet leader" both in Italy and in Europe.

Now, with the loss of two of its most imaginative talents, Tiscali will need to consolidate its business. According to a Tiscali announcement, Kinsella left after "a difference of opinion with Chairman Soru regarding his role as chief executive," but -- unlike Besnainou -- he will remain on the board of directors.

On Wednesday, Liberty Surf was making no further comment about Besnainou's departure, other than saying that no further departures of executives have been announced so far.

46-year-old Pierre Besnainou began his career in 1974 in the import/export business, bringing in electrical appliances from Asia. He founded the Kaisui Group, turning it into a major import and distribution operation with some localized production in France. The company sold a million television sets in 1994.

In the following year, Besnainou sold the Kaisui Group to Sagem, and went on to create Universal Netcom which became Liberty Surf in 1999.

It appears inevitable that other executives will leave in the wake of Besnainou's resignation. Several who followed Kinsella to Tiscali when the Italian ISP took over World Online have now resigned or have indicated they may do so.

Growth by acquisition has made Tiscali a pan-European operator with 6.8 million registered subscribers in 15 countries. Its shares have been traded on the Nuovo Mercato since October 1999.