BCE Chairman, 3 Directors Leave After Buyout Fails

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – BCE Inc’s (BCE.TO: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) chairman and three directors will leave the company’s board in February, announcing their departure a week after an attempt at a leveraged takeover of the company foundered on fears it would leave Canada’s biggest telecommunications firm insolvent.

Richard Currie, chairman of BCE’s board since 1992, and board members Judith Maxwell, John McArthur and Robert Pozen will not stand for reelection at the company’s annual meeting scheduled for February.

The C$34.8 billion ($29 billion) attempt to buy the company by a private-equity group led by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan collapsed earlier this month after BCE’s accountants decided the company would become insolvent because the deal would leave it with a huge and unsupportable debt.

The chairman and three directors did not link their departure to the failed buyout.

BCE is now suing its would-be buyers for a C$1.2 billion break fee, and last week reinstated its dividend and announced a share repurchase program to bolster its stock.

“The fact that the transaction to sell the company to an investor group … will not proceed is obviously a disappointment,” Currie said in a statement. “However, the specific measures to create shareholder value announced last Friday make this an opportune time for me to relinquish my board duties.”

The company said Currie will be replaced as chairman by current director Thomas O’Neill, the former chief executive of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Canada, if he is reelected at the Feb 17 annual meeting.

O’Neill has been a BCE board member since 2003.

BCE shares rose C$1.30 to C$23.00 on Thursday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

($1=$1.20 Canadian) (Reporting by Scott Haggett; editing by Peter Galloway)