SAO PAULO/PARIS (Reuters) - Vivendi (VIV.PA) has tapped Amos Genish, the former head of Telefonica's (TEF.MC) Brazil unit, to lead efforts to converge the French media company's content, platforms and media distribution strategies.
The move comes as Vivendi, led by billionaire and corporate raider Vincent Bollore, has been building up its stake in Italian broadcaster Mediaset (MS.MI) as part of a strategy to expand in southern Europe.
European media and telecoms groups are betting on the convergence of TV content with Internet and phone services as they face increasing competition from online providers such as Netflix (NFLX.O) and Amazon (AMZN.O).
Genish's task will be to foster greater collaboration between Vivendi's wide range of assets in the newly created role of chief convergence officer, which the French group announced late on Wednesday.
Bollore has made no secret of his intentions to create a southern European powerhouse able to compete with the likes of Time Warner (TWX.N) and Rupert Murdoch, whose Twenty-First Century Fox (FOXA.O) struck a $14.6 billion deal last month to buy European pay-TV firm Sky (SKYB.L), uniting a media empire across two continents.
Since becoming Vivendi's chairman in 2014, Bollore has hired and fired top management and taken key strategic decisions, including the company's big bet on Telecom Italia (TLIT.MI), in which Vivendi built up a 24 percent stake, becoming the biggest shareholder.
Genish, 56, an Israeli citizen, sold Brazilian phone carrier GVT SA to Vivendi in 2009. He became CEO of Telefonica Brasil (VIVT4.SA) after Vivendi sold GVT to the local unit of Spain's Telefónica SA in 2015.
Under his tenure, Telefónica Brasil grew at the expense of rivals and became Brazil's most profitable carrier in spite of the worst recession in more than eight decades.
He stepped down as CEO in October, citing unspecified personal reasons.
Vivendi's stake building in Mediaset has riled the Italian government amid concerns that Bollore, who is influential in Telecom Italia's strategy and is a key shareholder in Italian bank Mediobanca (MDBI.MI), could end up with even greater influence in Italy's corporate world.
Vivendi said last month that it now controls 29.94 percent of Mediaset's voting rights along with 28.8 percent of the company's share capital - just below the 30 percent stake at which a full bid for Mediaset would be required.
Vivendi, whose biggest unit is French broadcaster Canal Plus Group, also acquired French mobile video games maker Gameloft last year and has built up a 25 percent stake in Gameloft's larger sister company Ubisoft (UBIP.PA).
Genish will be based in London and Paris, Vivendi said in its statement announcing his appointment.
Telefónica Brasil said on Wednesday that Genish had resigned from the company's board, turning his seat over to José María Del Rey Osorio. He also quit his post as head of the company's strategy committee.
He was replaced as CEO in October by Eduardo Navarro.
Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Bruno Federowski; Editing by Susan Fenton