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Adecco gives CEO the push

Klaus Jacobs is the new strongman at Adecco

(Keystone)

The world's biggest employment services firm, Swiss-based Adecco, has forced CEO Jérôme Caille to resign, replacing hime with key investor Klaus Jacobs.

The German-born billionaire, who had called for Caille's resignation last year, will additionally become sole chairman of the company.

The move comes a week after the company reported forecast-missing third quarter results - its French business stalled with no growth, comparing badly with rivals Manpower and Vedior.

France is the group's key market and accounts for around a third of its revenues.

Pricing pressure in the competitive market and Adecco's exposure to the country's struggling automotive industry forced the staffing firm to abandon its full-year gross margin target in August.

Adecco's board of directors decided on the changes to the corporate make-up at a meeting in Zurich on Monday.

Co-chairman Philippe Foriel-Destezet also resigned, the company said, but will remain on the board.

Jürgen Dormann, member of the board of directors, and former head of engineering group ABB, has been named to replace him.

Interim CEO Jacobs will propose a new top executive "in due time" the company said, to accelerate the group's strategy to expand into more profitable business areas.

Dented trust

The Jacobs family - which already held 11.7 per cent of Adecco - has bought 12 million of the company's shares from AKILA Finance, an entity controlled by Foriel-Destezet, and is set to acquire 12 million more.

Investors' trust in Adecco was dented early last year when the group discovered accounting difficulties delaying the publication of its 2003 results. This prompted a sharp drop in the share price that has not yet been fully reversed.

Caille was under pressure at the time after company shareholders and the media strongly criticised the firm's leadership for its handling of the accounting crisis.

In particular, critics lamented a lack of detailed information about the problems, which the company said were centred on its North American division.

Jacobs said at the time the company lacked competence, leadership and integrity. In an interview with Bilanz, a Swiss business magazine, he called on Caille to resign if he failed to restore Adecco's share price.

He warned that Caille had only a short time to win back the confidence of investors, customers and staff.

Caille has had a dramatic career path at Adecco, which he joined in 1991.

After starting as a branch manager in Spain, he took over the company's Italian and Greek divisions in 1997, before being appointed CEO in March 2002.

Bilanz magazine said he owed much of his success to a close relationship with Foriel-Destezet.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Swiss-based Adecco is the world's biggest provider of temporary workers.
It was born out of the merger of Switzerland's Adia and French company Ecco.
The firm employs 30,000 people in 6,000 offices in 70 countries.
It provides around four million employees to 250,000 companies every year.

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