Infogrames shares shine after chairman leaves

Thu Apr 5, 2007 4:17am EDT

(Recasts with share reaction, analyst comment)

PARIS, April 5 (Reuters) - Shares in Europe's largest video games group Infogrames Entertainment IFOE.PAjumped 24 percent on Thursday as investors hoped the cash-stretched group would take a new direction as its founding chairman and chief executive, Bruno Bonnell, left the company after 24 years.

Bonnell's departure was expected after Infogrames last month completed a restructuring aimed at wiping out its heavy debt burden and funding its development in the money-hungry video games industry.

Bonnell spearheaded the acquisition spree that lifted Infogrames' debt to some 600 million euros at the height of the tech bubble in 2000 and analysts said his departure could give Infogrames shareholders power to conduct a strategy change.

"The market hopes the new management will regain control of the company," one sector analyst said.

Infogrames said that Bonnell would be succeeded by Patrick Leleu, who has been an Infogrames board member since January 2007 and has held top managerial positions at cable operator Noos and at Bouygues Telecom (BOUY.PA)

Infogrames, maker of "The Matrix" game, said that its debt restructuring programme of several years was completed in March, positioning the group for a new growth phase.

"The board, in agreement with Bruno Bonnell, has judged that it was a good moment to create new dynamism," it said

At 0752 GMT, Infogrames shares gained 23.81 percent at 0.26 euros. The shares have lost 47.50 percent so far this year.

((Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Marcel Michelson, editing by Erica Billingham; Reuters Messaging:

rm://marcel.michelson.reuters.com@reuters.net

Email:marcel.michelson@reuters.com

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