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TIM board members had expected change at top for months -source

By Gram Slattery

SAO PAULO, March 16 (Reuters) - The replacement of TIM Participacoes SA Chairman Mario Cesar Pereira de Araujo on Friday was not a surprise to the company's board given the increasingly hands-on approach of the CEO of the Brazilian company's Italian parent, Telecom Italia, a high-ranking source with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Board members had expected a change for months, said the source, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. While there were some mild strategic differences between Araujo and Telecom Italia CEO Amos Genish, Araujo's departure was amicable.

On Friday, TIM Participacoes, one of Brazil's largest carriers, said it received resignation letters with immediate effect from Araujo and board member Manoel Horacio Francisco da Silva.

Three other board members also resigned, effective April 19, when the company's next shareholders' meeting is scheduled. Joao Cox Neto, an investor with extensive experience in Brazilian telecommunications and several other sectors, was named as the new chairman.

Genish, a former CEO of TIM Participacoes competitor Telefonica Brasil SA, took the reins at Telecom Italia in September. Among the changes he has made was hiring a former co-worker at Brazilian telecoms provider GVT to an executive position at TIM Participacoes in February.

That helped increase speculation within TIM Participacoes that Genish was looking to bring long-time allies with a similar vision into the Brazilian unit.

Cox, the new chairman, has a close relationship with Genish, the source said.

"When he was here in Brazil he had a very close relationship with Joao and perhaps he prefers to work with him," said the source.

TIM Participacoes did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday night regarding the dynamics of the board shake-up. (Reporting by Gram Slattery Editing by Leslie Adler)