Free Speech, Belgian Style

Didier Bellens, CEO of Belgacom (Belgium’s largest telecommunications company) has been fired.  He complained too much about government regulation and taxes.

As The Wall Street Journal described it,

Over the years, Mr Bellens has launched a number of broadsides against the government.  Friday’s dismissal comes after the latest attack, in which he asked a business club breakfast in the chic Brussels suburb of Uccle, “Who’s the worst shareholder?”  His answer: “The Belgian state.”

Yep.  The Belgian government owns 53.5% of Belgacom.  And the government disapproved of Bellens’ political—even business—speech.  Last Friday, Prime Minister Elio di Rupo fired Bellens, announcing

The repeated, accumulated outbursts have irreversibly damaged the confidence of the Belgian state in Mr Bellens[.]

There can’t even be an argument that Bellens hadn’t been performing up to snuff from a business perspective.  Stefaan Genoe, a telecommunications analyst at brokerage Petercam, had this about Bellens’ results:

Overall, Belgacom has evolved very well strategically during his tenure.  It has a very healthy balance sheet.

Dividends are still attractive, at 8 or 9%[.]

And the Progressives in our own government want to Europeanize us.


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