MILAN (Reuters) -Two leading Generali investors are ready to push to replace current CEO Philippe Donnet if the top Italian insurer’s board fails to reach an accord to keep him in the job, three sources close to the matter said.
The Trieste-based insurer is due to appoint a new board next spring and speculation over Donnet’s future has mounted in recent months as tensions among shareholders simmer.
In a sign battle lines are being drawn, the two Generali investors, Francesco Gaetano Caltagirone and Leonardo Del Vecchio, on Saturday disclosed a pact to consult over decisions concerning Generali..
Donnet’s reappointment is in the hands of Generali’s board which for the first time can submit its own slate of board candidates after the insurer changed its by-laws last year.
The sources said the two businessmen, who struck the pact over a combined 10.95% stake, are ready to file their own list of board nominees. The list would not include the current CEO though he is willing to run for another mandate, they said.
Donnet is already working on a new business plan for Generali due in December after steering the company through the COVID-19 crisis and keeping it on track to fully meet goals under the current plan through to end-2021.
Donnet currently enjoys the backing of Alberto Nagel, the CEO of Milanese bank Mediobanca, which is Generali’s top investor with a 12.9% stake, as well as many board members at the insurer.
Del Vecchio and Caltagirone are also, respectively, the first- and second-biggest investor in Mediobanca.
Over the past year, however, both Caltagirone, whose businesses span construction to publishing, and Del Vecchio, the founder of Ray-Ban owner Luxottica, have been critical of Donnet’s strategy which they deem too cautious in seeking merger and acquisition opportunities.
According to one of the sources, the two businessmen could also propose a new chairman with a well-established international profile to oversee Generali’s growth strategies.
A compromise among shareholders is still possible, another of the sources said, and one solution could be the appointment of a managing director backed by both Del Vecchio and Caltagirone who would work alongside Donnet.
However, positions are still far apart, the sources said, ahead of a key meeting on Sept. 27 when Generali’s board will kick off proceedings to submit its own list of nominees.
Before that, in an apparent attempt to find common ground, Generali non-executive board members will meet on Sept. 14, a fourth source said. Donnet will not attend the meeting as he is an executive member, the source added.
(Reporting by Claudia Cristoferi and Gianluca Semeraro, editing by Valentina Za, Ros Russell and Christina Fincher)