Former Atos CEO Says Problems Emerged After He Quit to Join EU

The on-premises data center management firm is at risk of being dismantled, reports Bloomberg.

Bloomberg News

March 4, 2024

2 Min Read
Atos offices in Essen, Germany

(Bloomberg) -- Thierry Breton has rejected any responsibility for the troubles at embattled Atos, the French IT company he ran for 10 years before becoming a European Union commissioner.

“I have no responsibility, zero,” Breton told members of the financial press association in Paris on Friday, adding that he left the company with no debt and in a good position to benefit from the rise of the cloud industry. 

Breton, who was Atos’s chief executive officer until 2019, has faced criticism from politicians, bankers and media reports for contributing to the company’s problems as it looks for ways to pay off billions of euros in debt. Atos is now at risk of being dismantled, with its fate in the hands of a court-appointed mediator. The French Senate is currently holding closed-doors hearings on the deterioration of the company.

The 69-year-old Frenchman took the helm of Atos in 2009 and molded it into an IT giant through various high-profile acquisitions. The company’s core business of managing on-site data centers is now being disrupted by external public cloud computing services pioneered by US giants like Inc. and Microsoft Corporation.

Critics of Breton say the company’s quick growth through large acquisitions left it with a patchwork of disparate businesses that struggled to adapt to changes in the IT industry. 

Related:The 'On-Premise' Debate: How a Data Center Slang Term Went Mainstream

Breton said that Atos was one of the first companies to partner with Alphabet Inc.’s Google and propose private cloud services, in his first public comments on the matter. In his view the company’s woes, including a series of governance setbacks and strategy shifts, started in 2021, causing the firm’s market value to plunge from €8.2 billion ($8.7 billion) at the end of 2020 to €266 million today. His team gave journalists a three-page document outlining the events that contributed to the decline of Atos in the years after he left, including the names of CEOs in charge at the time.

Breton said he sold all his shares in the company before becoming a commissioner at the request of the EU Parliament. 

In his role as EU internal market commissioner, Breton spearheads efforts to regulate Big Tech in Europe. He also plans to join President Emmanuel Macron’s first campaign event for the European elections of June later this month in Northern France.

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