French dairy group Danone has removed CEO and chairman Emmanuel Faber from both roles, following pressure from activist investors Artisan Partners and Bluebell Capital Partners.
Danone appointed Gilles Schnepp as chairman. Schnepp was the preferred candidate of both Bluebell and Artisan to take over the board.
While the company is conducting the search for a new CEO, Véronique Penchienati-Bosetta, CEO of Danone International, and Shane Grant, CEO of North America, will jointly lead the company.
“The priority of the board is now to transition towards an improved governance. This means accelerating the process to recruit a new CEO, while Véronique and Shane continue to lead the business during this period. I look forward to working with the board to support them in their interim roles, and the wider management team as they accelerate our efforts to create value for all our stakeholders,” Schnepp said in a statement.
In an emailed statement to Activist Insight Online, Bluebell said it views the appointment of Gilles Schnepp “as great news for all stakeholders of Danone.”
“This decision, alongside the earlier announcements to split the roles of CEO and Chairman and to search for a new CEO, are completely in line with our requests,” it added. Francesco Trapani, Bluebell’s chairman, said the fund is “supportive” of Schnepp “in his next key task to recruit a high calibre CEO able to combine shareholder value creation and Danone’s commitments to ESG.”
Bluebell first targeted Danone in February, calling for the removal of Faber and the separation of the CEO and chairman roles. Artisan followed with similar calls and demands for a strategy change that entailed a reshuffling of the portfolio of brands and more investment in core categories.
Artisan also welcomed the latest changes to Danone’s top echelon, portfolio managers Daniel O’Keefe and David Samra saying that “the appointment of new leadership and better corporate governance will strengthen the company for the benefit of all stakeholders.”
Danone moved to soothe the dissidents by announcing a separation of the dual leadership roles, with Faber taking the role of chairman. However, neither Artisan nor Bluebell agreed that was enough.
Shares in Danone were up 4.6% at around 09.40 a.m. Continental European Time in Paris.