Veolia's boardroom battle
Plumbing the depths
What a row over a water company says about French capitalism
EVEN by the standards of French business, from which politics is rarely absent, it was an outrageous plan.
This week news emerged of a plot to oust Antoine Frerot, chief executive of Veolia, a private water and waste group, and replace him with Jean-Louis Borloo, a politician and former energy minister.
本周，风言威立雅水务集团密谋用前能源部长，政客让 路易·博洛取代现任总经理安东尼 弗雷罗的消息四起。
Civil servants regularly take the top job at blue-chip French firms.
But Mr Borloo, who has no experience running a business, seemed singularly unqualified to run an unprofitable company which needs deep restructuring.
Mr Borloo is a friend of Henri Proglio, who was Veolia's chief executive from 2003 until 2009.
Mr Proglio then handed the job to Mr Frerot, his chosen successor, and became chief executive of Electricite de France, a utility.
For a year after becoming boss of EDF, Mr Proglio stayed on as Veolia's chairman, collecting two big pay packages.
After a corporate-governance storm, he stepped down as chairman of Veolia in 2010 but kept a seat on its board.
The origin of this week's row is Mr Frerot's plan to restructure Veolia, one of France's largest private-sector employers.
The firm's shares have fallen by 60% in the past 12 months, as it has struggled with tumbling profits and high debt.
Instead of following the path set out by his former boss, Mr Frerot announced last December that he would take an axe to Mr Proglio's empire, which spanned 77 countries and 250 varieties of business, and turn Veolia into something resembling a modern, focused company.
He announced a sale of assets worth