MILAN, Sep 11 (Reuters) – Two big investors in Generali (GASI.MI) are ready to lobby to replace current CEO Philippe Donnet if the board of directors of the main Italian insurer fails to reach a deal for the maintain post, according to three sources close to the said matter.
The Trieste-based insurer is due to appoint a new board next spring and speculation over Donnet’s future has intensified in recent months as tensions between shareholders ease.
In a sign that the battle lines are emerging, Generali’s two investors, Francesco Gaetano Caltagirone and Leonardo Del Vecchio, unveiled a consultation pact on decisions concerning Generali on Saturday.
Donnet’s reappointment is in the hands of Generali’s board of directors which, for the first time, can submit its own slate of candidates to the board after the insurer amended its statutes last year.
The sources said the two businessmen, who struck the pact on a combined 10.95% stake, are ready to file their own slate of board candidates. The list would not include the current CEO despite being ready to run for another term, they said.
Donnet is already working on a new business plan for Generali expected in December after guiding the company through the COVID-19 crisis and keeping it on track to fully achieve the goals of the current plan until the end. 2021.
Donnet is currently supported by Alberto Nagel, CEO of the Milanese bank Mediobanca (MDBI.MI), which is Generali’s largest investor with a 12.9% stake, as well as numerous members of the board of directors of the ‘insurer.
Del Vecchio and Caltagirone are also Mediobanca’s first and second investor, respectively.
In the past year, however, Caltagirone, whose business spans from construction to publishing, and Del Vecchio, the founder of Luxottica, owner of Ray-Ban, have criticized Donnet’s strategy as they see it. too cautious in looking for merger and acquisition opportunities.
According to one of the sources, the two businessmen could also nominate a new president with a well-established international profile to oversee Generali’s growth strategies.
A compromise between shareholders is still possible, another source said, and a solution could be the appointment of a chief executive backed by both Del Vecchio and Caltagirone who would work alongside Donnet.
However, positions are still very distant, the sources said, ahead of a key meeting on September 27, when Generali’s board of directors initiates the process to submit its own slate of candidates. Read more
Prior to that, in an apparent attempt to find common ground, the non-executive members of Generali’s board will meet on September 14, a fourth source said. Donnet will not attend the meeting as he is a member of the executive, the source added.
Reporting by Claudia Cristoferi and Gianluca Semeraro, editing by Valentina Za, Ros Russell and Christina Fincher
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.