Ljubljana – Following his dismissal as the chairman of the country’s largest electricity distributor Elektro Ljubljana, Andrej Ribič announced on Monday that he will challenge the decision of the supervisory board in court. He believes Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec is behind the dismissal, which Vrtovec denied.
Media reported on Friday that the supervisory board of Elektro Ljubljana dismissed Ribič, while officially not providing the reason for the dismissal.
There has been talk about Ribič’s replacement since state representatives on the supervisory board were replaced in June, as he is believed not to be to the government’s liking, news portal N1 said.
Ribič, whose term would have run out in March 2022, said on Monday he was convinced there was no reason for his dismissal, which he intends to challenge in court.
“The supervisory board saying that it decides on my dismissal for at-fault reasons, and at the same time offers a settlement, is contradictory and, in my opinion, also something that could be subject to prosecution.
“If I’m guilty, they should have dismissed me immediately without negotiations,” Ribič told the press in Ljubljana, adding that the dismissal had been in the works for a long time and that it was a political decision.
He said he had been invited on 18 October to the office of ruling Democrats (SDS) at the National Assembly by SDS secretary general Borut Dolanc, who had offered him an agreement on early dismissal from the post of Elektro Ljubljana chairman.
“I couldn’t sign the deal,” Ribič said, adding that no reasons for that had been presented. “On the contrary … it is obvious that they wanted to bring someone who would make a detrimental deal and damage the company and its shareholders.”
“Dolanc told me the order came from above, and I’m convinced that Minister Jernej Vrtovec is behind this”, said Ribič, highlighting the minister’s recent statement that “old directors will have to bid farewell”.
Ribič believes one of the reasons for the “swift dismissal” is the shareholder meeting of electricity trader GEN-I, which is expected to be held this week.
“The minister and his associates probably want to take away the voting rights that Elektro Ljubljana has at this AGM. As you know, the meeting is to decide on the fate of GEN-I chairman Robert Golob,” he added.
According to media reports, Golob does not enjoy political support either. The 24ur.com web portal has said the director of the state-owned power utility HSE could also lose his post this week.
“Vrtovec has recently said that there are no political replacements and staffing in his portfolio … I come from his portfolio and, unfortunately, I’m not the only one to whom this is happening. You be the judge,” Ribič said.
He confirmed for 24ur.com the reports that the current chief financial officer at Elektro Ljubljana, Marjan Ravnikar, is to take over as the interim chairman.
Minister Vrtovec meanwhile denied any involvement in staffing at state-owned companies for the portal and again in a statement today, stressing he stuck to the principles of corporate management.
“As a politician, I cannot have the option of intervening in the management of companies. This is what Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH) is for.”
He also said that his ministry was in charge of content and legislation, not staffing. “All allegations are far-fetched,” he added today.
As for the statement about “old directors bidding farewell”, Vrtovec said it referred to some renewables projects waiting for permits for more than 10 months.
“The statement was made in reference of us having to be faster in certain projects related to renewables and that state-owned companies must be proactive.”
Ribič meanwhile also said his dismissal was related to Elektro Ljubljana’s ownership of company GEN-EL and an agreement he reached with Golob to sal a 75% stake in GEN-EL, which owns a 50% stake in GEN-I, without the knowledge of supervisors of Elektro Ljubljana, Gen Energija or SSH.
Responding to the developments, SSH said Ribič had given one-sided, misleading and generalised statements about complex, multi-sided civil law and corporate relations.
The state assets custodian said it had nothing to do with Ribič’s dismissal, as it did not interfere in supervisors’ work. It said it complies with the rules and good practice on corporate governance of state-owned companies.
Part of the opposition responded critically to the dismissal, with Soniboj Knežak of the Social Democrats (SD) saying that, instead of an operational government, there is the “company Democratic Party (SDS) that has numerous subsidiaries”.
Nataša Sukić of the Left said the “energy sector is full of horse trading and clashes of different interests”, adding that this was only another takeover by the Janez Janša government and continuation of “staffing purge”.
Rudi Medved of the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) said that the NSi, of which Minister Vrtovec is a member, claimed that politics should not interfere in the economy, and there “are now open implications that Vrtovec himself intervened so that Elektro Ljubljana director is dismissed”.
The ruling SDS meanwhile said the allegations that Ribič’s dismissal is a political decisions was “meaningless”, as only the SSH and supervisory boards of individual companies had the right to appoint staff in state-owned companies.