Danone Faces Off With Artisan Partners as CEO Dispute Mounts

Danone and Artisan Partners Asset Management Inc. continued to spar over leadership and strategy at the world’s largest yogurt maker ahead of a potential board meeting next week.

Danone urgently needs to address its board structure and leadership, which it could do at the meeting, Artisan Partners said in a new letter to management. The French company has been facing calls from Artisan, Bluebell Capital Partners and Causeway Capital Management to separate Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Emmanuel Faber’s positions after the stock lost a quarter of its value last year. Artisan and Bluebell have also demanded Danone name a new CEO.

Danone on Friday defended itself, pointing to steps the company has taken to reinforce governance. That includes naming independent directors to the board with consumer and operational experience, such as Guido Barilla, chairman of pasta maker Barilla Group, in 2018. The board also includes former Sodexo SA Chief Executive Officer Michel Landel and Gilles Schnepp, who was named lead independent director in December.

Bluebell earlier this week suggested Schnepp could be a good candidate to replace Faber as chairman, as the former Legrand SA executive led the splitting of the chairman and CEO roles at the French electronics company.

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