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.

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