Third Point Partners is taking on EssilorLuxottica, amid a power struggle between the company’s Italian and French factions following a merger of equals between two leading eyewear makers.
According to Reuters, Third Point is still building its stake in the firm but has already met with EssilorLuxottica executive chairman and largest shareholder, Leonardo Del Vecchio. The content of the discussions remains unclear.
Essilor and Luxottica agreed to a merger of equals in 2018 but conflict soon surfaced between Del Vecchio and Essilor chief Hubert Sagnières after the former tried to advance his man as the next CEO.
The battle attracted the involvement of some investment managers, including Baillie Gifford, Comgest, Edmond de Rothschild Asset Management, Fidelity International, PhiTrust and Sycamore Asset Management, which proposed to break the stalemate by adding two independent directors on the 16-member board, split equally between Essilor and Luxottica nominees.
However, the warring sides reached an agreement in May, under which they started the search for a new CEO while increasing their focus on integrating the businesses. The asset managers’ nominees were not elected at the company’s annual meeting in mid-May.
Third Point has been increasingly active outside the U.S., and just recently called on Japanese conglomerate Sony to spin off its semiconductor unit and sell stakes in non-core businesses. Sony, however, indicated it is not willing to budge.
The activist has also been running a multi-year campaign at Swiss food giant Nestlé, which saw its shares surge 30% over the past two years after implementing some of Third Point’s suggestions to streamline operations and brand portfolio. The consumer products company has refused to sell a passive minority stake in L’Oréal, however.
Shares in EssilorLuxottica were up 1.4% at 11 a.m. Continental European Summer Time in Paris trading Monday.