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Telefonica: Duran axed; Nieto waits

Villalonga's hatchet man's demise a boon for new regime

MADRID — Manuel Garcia Duran has been pinkslipped as prexy of Telefonica’s giant film and TV conglom Telefonica Media.

Departure from the most important post in the Spanish entertainment industry reinforces the position of Telefonica Media CEO Juan Jose Nieto as a top candidate to lead the holding.

Also CEO of commercial broadcaster Antena 3 and prexy of satcaster Via Digital, Nieto had been tipped in some quarters to head up Telefonica’s cell-phone service Telefonica Moviles. At a Telefonica board meeting Thursday, however, Luis Lada was tapped prexy of that unit.

Exit of former Telefonica prexy Juan Villalonga’s hatchet man is seen in Spain as a major victory for Nieto, who cannily stonewalled attempts by Garcia Duran to sign up TV personality Pepe Navarro to host a latenight chatshow designed to lambaste Villalonga’s political enemies.

Role for Rios?

One important question is what role admired industry vet Jose Antonio Rios could now play in the new Telefonica exec structure. Contrary to rumors, Rios has not stepped down as prexy of Telefonica call-center company Atento and is thought to be highly regarded by new Telefonica prexy Cesar Alierta.

At the same board meeting, Telefonica named Fernando Abril Martorell as CEO and No. 2 of Telefonica.

Joaquim Agut has been tapped president of Telefonica Internet portal and ISP company Terra Networks. Agut’s first responsibility will be to close Terra’s purchase of U.S. portal Lycos Communications, currently skedded for October.

The exec reshuffle represents the first part of a major restructuring of Telefonica under former Spanish tobacco baron Cesar Alierta, who replaced the flamboyant Villalonga as Telefonica prexy July 26.

Abril Martorell’s appointment is seen by analysts as a move to spread executive power over two supremos to counteract the concentration of decisionmaking in one topper, as was the case with Villalonga. Telefonica and Terra shares rose 4.1% and 3.3%, respectively, on the Madrid stock market subsequent to the new appointments.

(John Hopewell contributed to this report.)

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