Ray-Ban Maker Names Milleri CEO Following Management Dispute

EssilorLuxottica SA said that Francesco Milleri will take over as chief executive officer until next year, when billionaire founder Leonardo Del Vecchio will gain more influence over the maker of Ray-Ban sunglasses and can exercise all his voting rights.

The Franco-Italian company also said Paul du Saillant was appointed deputy CEO. Del Vecchio and Hubert Sagnieres will both step back from executive roles while remaining respectively as chairman and vice chairman, the company said on Thursday.

EssilorLuxottica is slowly approaching an endgame to a management dispute that shook the company ever since the 2018 merger of a French lensmaker and the Italian spectacles maker. Even though Del Vecchio, the largest shareholder, is giving up his executive function, the chairman is poised to gain more power as a shareholder next year upon the expiry of restrictions on his voting rights.

“Milleri thinks and acts for Del Vecchio,” said Olivia Flahaut, an analyst at OFG Recherche, a research company which looks at corporate governance issues.

France’s Essilor merged with Italy’s Luxottica in 2018, creating a company now valued at 57 billion-euro ($69 billion), with brands including Oakley and Transitions.

The stock rose less than 1% to 129.70 euros in Paris trading.

Milleri and du Saillant will remain in their executive roles until at least an annual general meeting planned in May.

The company also reported an interim 2020 dividend payment of 1.15 euros a share. EssilorLuxottica has been hit hard by the pandemic and lockdowns, with revenue in the first nine months of the year sliding by 20%.

Du Saillant said last month a “strong and solid” management set-up was already in place with himself and Milleri in charge to navigate the pandemic. The plan was for a new board to be elected in May next year at the end of a combination agreement with GrandVision, he said then.

But EssilorLuxottica’s plan to buy Dutch company GrandVision NV appears to be on shakier ground. It may seek to renegotiate the acquisition price or even walk away from the 7.3 billion-euro transaction, people with knowledge of the matter said this month.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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