Danone splits chairman and CEO functions, begins recruitment process for new CEO

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Photo Credit: Danone
Photo Credit: Danone

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Danone's Board of Directors has confirmed a proposal from current chairman and CEO, Emmanuel Faber, to separate the functions of chairman and CEO in the near future, and has begun looking for a new CEO.

Danone said it has launched the recruitment process for a new CEO, and once complete, Faber will focus on his role as non-executive Chairman. In the meantime, Faber will continue as chairman and CEO of Danone.

The multi-billion dollar global CPG company, which has a strong presence in dairy and a growing portfolio of plant-based dairy alternatives, came under pressure after activist investor, Bluebell Capital Partners, criticized Danone for its "underperformance"​ compared to its competitors and "questionable allocation choices" ​late last year.

In a letter (seen and reported by the Financial Times​) Bluebell Capital Partners, stated: "We feel that under the leadership of Mr Faber, Danone did not manage to strike the right balance between shareholder value creation and sustainability.”

In a statement​ issued by Danone earlier this week, it said: "In the context of this plan and upon reflecting on the governance best suited to this new milestone for the company, Danone's management and Board of Directors have conducted an open dialogue in recent months with shareholders, social partners as well as many other internal and external stakeholders."

Danone's "Local First"​ adaptation plan​ was announced in November 2020 as a corporate roadmap to regaining profitability in 2021. In order to ensure close monitoring, the Danone Board decided in December 2020 to strengthen the company's governance to accompany this transformation phase and the strategic review of the portfolio.

Danone has made other changes to its leadership team in recent months including the appointment of Gilles Schnepp as vice-chairman and Jean-Michel Severino as lead independent director and chairman of the governance committee.

Severino who has served as board director at Danone for the past ten years, commented: "I thank the Board for entrusting me with this role, which will be of critical importance in the transition phase we are entering. I also look forward to being in charge of continuing a fruitful dialogue with our shareholders.

“I am pleased we took the governance arrangements that will allow us to anticipate the next phase of development of the truly unique company Danone is, as we open, with our Local First plan, a new step towards the company’s reinvention. I want to thank all our shareholders, my colleagues of the Board, our employees and social partners who contributed to making these decisions emerge. I am convinced they will make the execution of our plan and our mission much stronger."

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