Nicolas Maeterlinck

Post office chief sacked after pressure from minister

The board of the Belgian post office Bpost has sacked its CEO Jean-Paul Van Avermaet. Mr Van Avermaet has been under fire for some time not only due to Bpost’s poor results, but also due to him having been named in an investigation into price fixing that took place while he was with his previous employer. The Federal Minister responsible for state-owned companies Petra De Sutter (Flemish green) says that the fact that Mr Van Avermaet gave Bpost’s board so little information about this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

Jean-Paul Van Avermaet was only in the job as Bpost’s CEO for less than a year when it emerged that he was suspected of price-fixing. The allegations date back to his time at the head of the Belgian division of the security company G4S. Investigations into the alleged price-fixing have been mounted by both the Belgian and the American Judicial Authorities.

On top of this came a big fall in Bpost’s share price last week after it published worse than expected results. 20% was wiped off the value of Bpost’s share.

As the company’s majority shareholder this caused concern among ministers in Belgium’s Federal Government. Speaking on VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’, the Federal Minister with responsibility for state-owned companies (of which Bpost is in part) Petra De Sutter said that the situation had become untenable.

However, the poor results weren’t the deciding factor. Ms De Sutter says that the fact that confidence in Mr Van Avermaet had ebbed away and that Bpost’s was suffering as a result had been the primary causes for concern.

Above all Mr Van Avermaet failure to offer complete transparency to Bpost’s board concerning the investigation into the price-fixing allegations led to his dismissal. "In September the board asked him to provide detailed information. However, this was not done to the board’s satisfaction. He was asked again in February. I also sent him a letter asking him this. I still haven’t received an answer. The glass is now more than full”.

The Chair of Bpost’s Board François Cornelis will take on the CEO duties while a new CEO is found.


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