Generali Backs Board List Plan That Includes CEO Donnet
(Bloomberg) -- Assicurazioni Generali SpA’s board of directors has approved a plan to work on a list for the next board that will include Chief Executive Officer Philippe Donnet, escalating a fight with some top investors who are seeking a change.
The majority of the company’s directors approved the plan during a meeting Monday, according to a statement Monday.
The formal start of the insurer’s procedure to re-elect Donnet came after non-executive directors in a meeting earlier this month took note of his availability for a third term, and most of them favored his inclusion on the list for the next board. The step intensifies a battle among top investors aiming to tighten their grip on the insurer.
Construction magnate Francesco Gaetano Caltagirone and Luxottica founder Leonardo Del Vecchio, who together own about 11% of Generali, are trying to replace Donnet, and reduce the influence of Mediobanca SpA, Generali’s main shareholder.
On Sept. 11, the pair signed a shareholder accord to work toward “a more profitable and effective management” of the insurer, marking their first formal step after having long grumbled over the investment bank’s control and management of Generali. Fondazione CRT also joined the group.
Caltagirone and Del Vecchio complained that the storied insurer lost ground under Mediobanca’s watch, lagging behind its main European peers in the last 15 years, people close to the tycoons said. The view was rejected by Generali’s current management and investors backing it. People close to them argued that in last five years Generali’s total shareholder return topped its main rivals.
Caltagirone, who also serves as Generali’s vice chairman, declined to vote to approve the company’s 2020 results, a symbolic move underscoring his disagreements with some of the insurer’s executives and their backers. Del Vecchio sees the possibility to expand Generali into a top European player with strong Italian roots, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg last year.
The battle over Generali has also had a ripple effect at Mediobanca, whose CEO, Alberto Nagel, backs Donnet. Caltagirone and Del Vecchio have upped the ante by boosting their holdings in Mediobanca, Italy’s biggest listed investment bank.
Mediobanca last week strengthened its grip over Generali, boosting its stake to more than 17% in the runup to the board meeting.
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