EB: Depot should be broken up, says Bigeard



Outgoing Lyreco CEO Eric Bigeard says that Office Depot’s shareholders should look at breaking up the company and selling it off.


"I think from a shareholders’ perspective, they need to dismantle that company – the individual assets would have more value if they were sold off independently," Bigeard said during his final OP industry interview, which will be published in the December/January issue of OPI magazine.


The current state of the Big Boxes was one of many issues that Bigeard discussed in a frank interview with OPI CEO Steve Hilleard.


Bigeard also said that he never had any intention of leaving Lyreco for another executive role in the office products industry, despite rumours a few months ago that he was in line to take over from Sam Duncan as CEO of OfficeMax.


"The timing [of our decisions to leave] was just a coincidence," he stated. "If I had wanted to stay in an executive role I would have stayed at Lyreco."


Bigeard maintained that the timing of his decision to step down is the right one after 21 years at the helm of Lyreco.


"I think the company needs a new pair of eyes," he said, adding that the Lyreco supervisory board had decided some time ago to opt for an external candidate, despite a history of the company promoting from within.


"We have a stable management team and, at the end of the day, the fact that they have worked closely with me for a long period of time probably worked to their disadvantage in the succession process. We have become used to the same processes, principles and habits, and I think that we really need a fresh perspective on how we do things."


The choice of Xerox France Managing Director Philippe Martinez to succeed Bigeard has raised a few eyebrows, but actually he has a similar background to that of Office Depot’s European President Dirk Collin; in fact, their career paths at Xerox crossed back in 2002 when Martinez took over from Collin as head of Xerox Italy.


Bigeard does not see Martinez’s lack of global executive management experience as a drawback.


"The vast majority of our business is in Europe – that’s a reality. And, to be honest, it is fairly difficult to find people who’ve got true global experience.


"We were very keen when searching for the future CEO to find someone with a true international background, and I really think that, in Philippe, we have found that."


Bigeard continued: "Philippe has got a very strong sales and marketing background and a very strong international background as well. He has also been working for Xerox for the last 26 years, and this shows that he is pretty stable.


"I think Philippe will bring change, but what he also brings, I believe, is that he shares a very similar culture to the culture of Lyreco. I think the company needs a new pair of eyes, but I also think we need to maintain the very strong company culture."

You will be able to read the full interview with Eric Bigeard – which also includes his thoughts on Lyreco’s relationship with Staples over the last couple of years, his main achievements and regrets as Lyreco CEO, and his views on the Gaspard family’s future plans for the company – in the December/January issue of OPI magazine.