Telecom Italia's Franco Bernabe has stepped down as Executive Chairman and CEO of the operator after six years.

The 65-year old resigned on Thursday at a board meeting, with Managing Director & COO Marco Putano given the CEO role.

Deputy Chairman Aldo Minucci will become chairman on a temporary basis, with the group saying that it has started looking for a new permanent chairman.

In a statement, Telecom Italia thanked Bernabe for his efforts and agreed a remuneration package of €6.6 million.

No official reason was given for his departure, but media reports suggest that the decision came after strategic differences between the outgoing head and the group’s shareholders grew wider.

Telefonica, Intesa, Generali and Mediobanca, the group’s core shareholders, have grown increasingly frustrated over the poor financial performance of the Italy-based operator.

It is in debt to the tune of €28.8 billion with plans to get it below €27 billion by the end of the year.

TI recorded a loss of €1.4 billion for the first six months of the year, announced plans to spin off its fixed line business and wrote down €2.2 billion due to the poor performance of its Italian business.

Last week, Telefonica signed a deal to raise its stake in Telecom Italia from 22 to 66 percent as it eyes a sale of the firm's lucrative Brazilian operations.

Bernabe, who is also chairman of industry body the GSMA, has been increasingly outspoken on the state of the European telecoms market.

Last month, he said that the deals that saw Vodafone give up its share in Verizon and Nokia sell its handset business to Microsoft are not good news for the continent’s telecoms industry.

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