Italian billionaires seek allies in battle against Generali CEO
By Gianluca Semeraro and Claudia Cristoferi
MILAN, September 17 (Reuters) – Two Italian tycoons who are Generali’s main investors GASI.MI are looking for allies after joining forces to try to have their say over the choice of the insurer’s next chief executive, according to a document released Friday.
Construction magnate Francesco Gaetano Caltagirone and eyewear billionaire Leonardo Del Vecchio unveiled a shareholders’ pact on Saturday to consult on decisions regarding Generali ahead of a general meeting in early 2022 to appoint a new board of directors.
Following a request from market regulator Consob to disclose additional information about the deal, Generali said on Friday that the pact signed by Del Vecchio, 86, and Caltagirone, 78, was open to other investors.
OThe banking foundation Fondazione CRT, which owns 1.4% of Generali, agreed to join the pact on Friday, its chairman, Giovanni Quaglia, told Reuters.
Del Vecchio and Caltagirone do not intend to effectively control the insurer through their combined 11.1% stake, in order to avoid triggering a mandatory takeover offer, according to the document.
Generali CEO Philippe Donnet has come under pressure from Caltagirone and Del Vecchio, who deem its mergers and acquisitions strategy insufficiently ambitious, sources said.
Donnet has the support of Mediobanca MDBI.MI, Italy’s leading investment bank and Generali’s main investor with a 13% stake.
In a move that could potentially give them more influence over Generali, Del Vecchio and Caltagirone have both built stakes in Mediobanca.
Highlighting a rift in the board, Generali said on Monday that a majority of its directors were in favor of Donnet’s reappointment.
Without compromise, Del Vecchio and Caltagirone are ready to back an alternative CEO candidate, sources said.
But they need to recruit allies to counter the influence of Mediobanca, who was able to count on the support of eight of the twelve non-executive members of Generali’s board at the meeting on Monday.
Among the eight was Lorenzo Pelliccioli, who represents the Italian group De Agostini, a 1.5% investor in Generali, according to people familiar with the matter.
The Italian family Benetton, which owns 4% of Generali but does not have a representative on its board of directors, has not yet taken sides and could decide in the coming weeks following the decision of Fondazione CRT, said the people. The Benettons have not commented.
Del Vecchio and Caltagirone will also face institutional investors, who own around 40% of Generali, Europe’s third-largest insurer.
(Reporting by Claudia Cristoferi, Gianluca Semeraro; writing by Valentina Za; editing by Steve Orlofsky)
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