Atlantia SpA Chief Executive Officer Giovanni Castellucci resigned as leader of the Benetton family infrastructure unit, 13 months after a fatal bridge collapse in Genoa sparked an investigation into maintenance practices.
Castellucci, who spearheaded Atlantia’s transformation into the world’s biggest toll-road operator, will temporarily be replaced by an executive committee including Chairman Fabio Cerchiai. The outgoing chief will get 13.1 million euros ($14.5 million) in severance payments.
When Castellucci, 60, came onboard in 2001 as general manager, the company was solely an Italian highway operator; he was named CEO in 2006. Atlantia now runs highways on three continents and manages airports in Italy and France.
Castellucci will be succeeded as general manager by company veteran Giancarlo Guenzi.
The manager’s exit comes after the Benettons’ Edizione Srl, which controls Atlantia, pushed for a shakeup in the wake of new findings in a probe following the collapse of the Morandi bridge last year. Forty-three people died in the accident and hundreds lost their homes.
The bridge collapse was a human tragedy and technical analysis has not yet revealed its cause, Castellucci said in an interview Wednesday with Corriere della Sera. The outgoing CEO maintained that inspections and oversights had been routinely carried out on the structure, with none pointing to safety issues.
Atlantia and its CEO have been under fire ever since the accident, as politicians — particularly from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement — have called for concessions to be revoked and managers to resign.
Five Star, part of the coalition that fell apart over the summer, returned to power in Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s new government, which has agreed to a review of concessions.
Finance police on Friday moved against nine individuals and seized documents as part of stepped-up investigations into Atlantia’s highway network, following the August 2018 bridge collapse on a stretch of road managed by Atlantia’s Autostrade per l’Italia SpA unit.
The Benettons Saturday expressed “dismay” at the new findings and pledged prompt action. That was the turning point for Castellucci, who had resisted earlier calls from Five Star to resign, people familiar with the matter said.
Under Castellucci, Atlantia purchased Spanish rival Abertis SA, became the top shareholder in Getlink SE — owner of Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel — and took over the Nice airport in France.
The CEO, himself under investigation in the Genoa case, was reconfirmed in April. Edizione founder Gilberto Benetton asked Castellucci to stay in his job and help manage the aftermath of the 2018 tragedy, according to the people familiar. Gilberto Benetton died a few months later.
–With assistance from Chiara Vasarri and Dan Liefgreen.
Photograph: Cranes lift equipment onto the Morandi bridge, in preparation for of its demolition, in Genoa, Italy Photographer: Federico Bernini/Bloomberg.
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