The staff of Italy’s leading directory publisher, Seat Pagine Gialle, is in a state of shock following the sudden death last week of its popular CEO, who is credited with saving the company from collapse.
Alberto Cappellini died March 25 from an apparent heart attack, soon after completing a financial restructuring that may have saved the company.
The company has posted a message on its website headlined “Ciao Alberto” that read, in part:
“You have left us a vision, a great mission and, above all, an example of dedication that we will always carry with us and that will be an immense help in achieving the goals we have set together with you — no ifs, ands or buts.
“It is impossible to convey the void you have left behind, but also the gratitude we feel for what you have done for all of us. The best tribute we can give you and those you love is our daily commitment to continue your mission and your work.”
Cappellini, 52, joined Seat as CEO in April 2009, replacing Luca Majocchi, who left the company in February. Cappellini arrived at Seat following a long career with paper goods maker Kimberly-Clark.
Since taking over, Cappellini has focused on developing a cohesive strategy and fixing the company’s serious balance sheet problems. At the end of 2011, Seat was carrying more than 2.7 billion euros in net debt, a ratio of 5.6 times EBITDA (based on 2010 full-year EBITDA). In March, the company gained the consent of its lenders for a restructuring package that would convert some bondholder debt to equity.
Last year, investors fled the company, fearing it would crumble under the weight of its debt. At the beginning of 2009, Seat’s shares were trading at 11.62 euros. At the end of 2011, the stock had fallen to 0.2 euros, near oblivion. Last week, shares closed at 0.5 euros. While the share price plummeted under Cappellini, he is widely credited with putting Seat on a more sustainable course and negotiating a difficult restructuring that will ease the debt burden and ensure its survival, at least in the near to mid term.
Seat has not yet reported its 2011 full-year results. Through September 2011, the company saw its group revenues decline by 10.5 percent to 695.6 million euros.