EDF: Since we don’t catch flies with vinegar, it’s difficult to lure a CEO with 450,000 euros

Which leads to a nice controversy between the government and its opponents. As revealed by Les Echos, in order to find a new CEO at EDF, the executive runs a high risk of having to remove the cap on the remuneration associated with the position, which is now set at 450,000 euros, an amount set by decree in 2012 François decided Holland for all heads of public companies (RATP, SNCF, ADP…). In a France where the average net salary is €2,340 a month and at a time when rampant inflation is hurting the purchasing power of the French, it is clear that such an increase in the boss’s pay would be justifiably difficult for public opinion to understand can of a public company that multiplies the industrial and financial setbacks. Even less the argument that these 450,000 euros are not enough to win a big boss. Unfortunately, however, it is a reality regarding the remuneration applied in the large companies of the CAC 40. Without an executive role, the CEOs of certain companies smaller than EDF are already making as much as EDF’s CEOs. Those who hold both the president and general manager positions are paid much higher. For example, Patrick Pouyanné, CEO of TotalEnergies, earned almost 6 million euros last year.

An extremely complex roadmap

So how do you convince an industrialist to take the reins of EDF when he’s now making ten times more or even more from his business? And this while running one of the most strategic companies in the country with an extremely complex roadmap to execute, and all with the state as its sole shareholder at all times behind him.

The future EDF chief will in fact have the task of taking over the power generation in the short term and achieving the revival of the tricolor atom in the long term, which involves the construction of 6 new EPRs within 20 years. In other words, to conduct the largest civilian nuclear program the western world has seen in 40 years. Granted, championing France’s energy independence is certainly an exciting challenge, but I’m not sure the sense of government is enough of an argument to convince the most undecided. “You don’t catch flies with vinegar,” admits one expert.

The example of Ben Smith at Air France-KLM

Not everyone is Jean-Bernard Lévy, the current head of EDF, who agreed to halve his pay at Thales when he was appointed in 2014. This question of the level of remuneration is crucial for the future of public companies. Even though Air France-KLM is a private group, the example of current CEO Ben Smith’s compensation bears witness to this. When the state, then a 14.6 percent shareholder, looked for a successor to Jean-Marc Janaillac in 2018, it had to accept that the group quadrupled the salary of the new Canadian leader to 4 million euros. And again, at that price point, Air France-KLM could only recruit No. 2 from Air Canada, a company smaller than KLM’s. The number 1 of comparable companies such as Lufthansa or IAG were paid significantly better.