Bpost conflict of interest controversy deepens, CEO appointment may take months

The crisis at post company Bpost continues to deepen. At least one of the two experts in Postal minister Petra De Sutter's cabinet was on the company's payroll while they were involved in negotiations over controversial government contracts, De Tijd and De Standaard reported on Thursday.

The newspapers deduced this from WhatsApp conversations between De Sutter's chief of cabinet and former Bpost CEO Dirk Tirez. Bpost was recently found to have made backroom price agreements with big media companies. While De Sutter said those cabinet members were not involved in those negotiations, the messages prove that at least one of them was.

The messages also revealed that De Sutter tried to defend Bpost's interests in the government. Opposition party N-VA has already demanded her resignation, but De Sutter maintains there was no conflict of interest. "I am going to answer all the questions in parliament next week," she said on Thursday.

CEO search continues

Meanwhile, the appointment of a new CEO for Bpost could take months, said Audrey Hanard, chair of the Bpost board. Bpost has been led by interim CEO Philippe Dartienne since the departure of Tirez in December.

"Unfortunately, we cannot say that the previous CEOs have been a success," she said. Tirez's predecessor, Jean-Paul Van Avermaet, was also discredited. "We are confident that we will arrive at the right candidate. It might take a few more months, but I would rather look for the right candidate than rush to appoint someone quickly."

Despite the string of bad news, Bpost's stock rose by over 5 per cent on Friday morning. According to news agency Bloomberg, investors reacted positively to first-quarter operating results. However, analysts point to the potential negative financial consequences of the malpractices.



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