To say that Antoine de Saint-Affrique is eagerly awaited at 17, boulevard Haussmann, in Paris, is an understatement. He should go to this address on Wednesday September 15, to officially take possession of his office as CEO of Danone. The roadmap of the successor of Emmanuel Faber, disembarked on March 14, is known. It will have to re-mobilize the troops jostled by an unprecedented governance crisis, redefine the strategy to resume growth, rule on the group’s perimeter, without forgetting to be faithful to the dual economic and societal project inherent in Danone’s history. An arduous task to be carried out in tandem with Gilles Schnepp, appointed president of the agri-food group, after the ousting of Mr. Faber who combined both functions.
Mr. de Saint-Affrique was declared the winner of the selection process for Danone’s new boss on May 17. Better, the group even agreed to revise upwards its remuneration policy to attract it. The new CEO will receive a fixed remuneration of 1.4 million euros, against 1 million euros for his predecessor, and a variable part that can rise to 1.4 million euros, if the objectives are achieved, or even up to to 2.8 million if they are exceeded. Finally, he may benefit from free performance shares for an equivalent amount. In the event of a forced departure, he may claim a maximum of 8.4 million euros in compensation.
Since May, even if he has not failed to consult to prepare for his arrival, he has chosen discretion. No public speaking before taking office. A strong moment, however, a consecration for this graduate of Essec and Harvard Business School, whose most of his career has been devoted to consumer products.
Winning the title of CEO of the Danone group, one of the flagships of the CAC 40, and having brands like Evian, Badoit, Blédina or Activia under his leadership, Mr. de Saint-Affrique was no doubt dreaming of it. But he also knows that going from a company like Barry Callebaut, the world leader in cocoa, which he had managed since 2015, with his 12,000 employees and a turnover of 6.3 billion euros, to a giant employing 100,000 people and weighing 23.6 billion euros in turnover, is not without risk. Especially since Danone holds a special place on the French politico-economic chessboard. Successive governments have always been very attentive to its future, often worried that “This cathedral of Chartres” does not pass into the hands of foreign competitors.
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