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Wendel Family Dynamics

Frederic Lemoine's appointment hopes to smooth relations between Wendel and founding family.

Jean-Bernard Lafonta, chief executive of Paris-based investment firm Wendel, finally bowed to pressure from disgruntled family shareholders when he resigned at the end of March. His replacement, Frédéric Lemoine , 43, an erstwhile adviser to former French president Jacques Chirac and a director on Wendel’s supervisory board since last June, will need all his political skills to smooth relations between Wendel and its founding family, one of France’s oldest dynasties. "I’m waiting to see if the change at the top means a real change of strategy," says Sophie Boegner, a family member and longtime critic of Wendel’s management. "I want to know how Lemoine plans to reduce Wendel’s huge debt and work with family investors."

Lemoine will soon face his first test: Boegner and about 40 other family members have written to François de Wendel, the chairman of the family holding company Société Lorraine de Participations Sidérurgiques, calling for an extraordinary meeting to vote on replacing Wendel directors. "We’re still waiting for an answer," Boegner says.