Casino Names New Finance Chief Amid Fight With Short Sellers

(Bloomberg) -- Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA promoted David Lubek to chief financial officer as the embattled French supermarket chain freshens up management in a bid to fend off short sellers who question its accounting.

Lubek, 45, replaces Antoine Giscard d’Estaing, a 57-year-old nephew of a former French president. The outgoing CFO will pursue new professional projects after 10 years at the company, Saint-Etienne, France-based Casino said Wednesday. The stock fell as much as 1.3 percent in a declining market.

Casino has been in a battle with short sellers for three years, since Muddy Waters Capital chief investment officer Carson Block disputed the retailer’s accounting in late 2015. Investors have bet against more than a third of the company’s freely traded shares, according to IHS Markit data. Clement Genelot, an analyst at Bryan Garnier, said he doesn’t think the CFO’s departure is linked to the short sellers, as Lubek has been deputy CFO for several years and a promotion seemed natural.

“The transition should thus be seamless and the operational implications are to be put into perspective,” Genelot said. “Mr. Lubek has been very active in financial communication recently.”

The departure undoes another link between Casino and a prominent French family. Former President Valery Giscard d’Estaing’s son Henri previously served on Casino’s board.

Lubek joined Casino as group controlling officer in 2013. The graduate of France’s Ecole Polytechnique previously worked at insurer Groupama as chief audit executive and at the French finance ministry.

The investors betting against the company and its parent, Rallye SA, are seeking to block dividends that they say prop up the financially stretched owners to the retailer’s detriment.

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