Monday, March 1

Danone: a board of directors that promises to be under high tension

The angry subjects should be on the menu of Danone’s next board of directors, scheduled for Monday 1er March. In this case, the governance of the French agri-food group with, as a watermark, the future of its CEO, Emmanuel Faber. Delicate questions, evaded during the previous meeting organized Thursday, February 18 and devoted to the annual results of the company.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday February 24, representatives of the British activist fund Bluebell Capital met with Danone senior directors. The opportunity for this shareholder, who holds a very small share in the capital, to insist on “Massive support” brought by investors to the separation of the functions of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, which have been combined since 2017.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also The Bluebell Capital fund, a small shareholder of Danone, thinks that “it is time for Mr. Faber to leave”

“It would be dangerous for the council to oppose dissociation. It’s a battle that shareholders can easily win in general meetings ”, warns a financier. The previous week, the same directors had received a visit from Artisan Partners, an American investor claiming 3% of Danone’s capital. He too was calling for a similar change at the head of the group.

Media pressures

Names are even put forward for the post of president. Artisan Partners adviser Jan Bennink – who spent part of his career at Danone – assured him that he was ready to take on this role. Bluebell Capital, for its part, is in favor of the appointment of Gilles Schnepp to this position. The latter has just joined the board of directors, on a proposal from Mr. Faber, with the objective of succeeding Michel Landel as lead director.

The differences appeared during the presentation, at the end of November 2020, by Emmanuel Faber of his new reorganization plan, called “Local First”

Within the board, discussions on an evolution of governance began long before the media pressure from Bluebell Capital and Artisan Partners. For several months, the debate loomed on the horizon. It now takes place in a much more frontal way. And this, in a tense atmosphere. Danone’s board of directors appears to be divided.

The differences appeared during the presentation, at the end of November 2020, by Emmanuel Faber of his new reorganization plan, called “Local First”. Officially, the group’s management says it was voted unanimously by the board. A version disputed by administrators. They stress that it was not put to a vote, and that dissenting voices were heard. Mr. Faber had announced the creation of a strategic committee responsible for monitoring this project.

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