Investment funds increase pressure on Danone CEO

FILE PHOTO: Emmanuel Faber, Chief Executive of French food group Danone, poses before a news conference to present the company’s 2019 annual results in Paris, France, February 26, 2020. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) – U.S. investment company Artisan Partners joined activist investor Bluebell Capital Partners on Friday in demanding that French food group Danone finds a new chief executive.

Chairman and Chief Executive Emmanuel Faber has come under growing pressure as activist shareholders push for management changes to lift returns that have lagged those of some rivals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Artisan, which has built a 3% stake in Danone, called for a split in the roles of CEO and chairman, also echoing Bluebell’s demands.

“The roles of CEO and chairman should be split to reflectmodern-day corporate governance. Governance standards also require that prior leadership leave the board. And logic demands more consumer goods experience on the board of directors,” wrote Artisan.

“A new, non-financial CEO with consumer goods experience and a track record of success should be installed as soon as possible to restore Danone to the elevated status it deserves within the French business establishment.”

Artisan has previously urged the maker of Activa yoghurt to sell its underperforming brands, such as Asian water label Mizone.

In recent months Faber had intensified action to ward off activist investors, announcing in November a plan to cut 2,000 jobs, trim product ranges and sell some assets, including the group’s business in Argentina and its Vega plant-based brand.

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