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Generali CEO wins board backing amid shareholder row By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO. Philippe Donnet is the CEO of Generali Insurance Company in Italy. This was taken at a shareholders meeting held in Trieste (Italy) on April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

By Gianluca Semeraro and Claudia Cristoferi

MILAN (Reuters) -The board of Assicurazioni Generali (MI:) on Monday threw its weight behind the reappointment of Chief Executive Philippe Donnet, overlooking opposition from two leading shareholders in Italy’s top insurer, two people close to the matter said.

Generali, Europe’s third-largest insurance company and one of Italy’s most valuable financial assets, had called into question Donnet’s fate as Donnet was preparing to present a business plan for December.

According to two sources, Generali’s outgoing board agreed to submit a list of nominees to shareholders for them to choose from in spring. Donnet was included on the slate.

One source said that nine out of thirteen board members supported the decision.

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A source claimed that the board would create a special committee for the compilation of the list with the support of headhunters, legal advisers, and oversight by Gabriele Galateri, Generali Chairman.

Francesco Gaetano Caltagirone (78) and Leonardo Del Vecchio (86), oppose Donnet’s appointment.

Generali’s second- and third-largest investors respectively, have criticized Donnet’s acquisition and merger strategy as being too cautious.

Mediobanca (OTC) is the largest investor in Generali and supports Donnet’s third mandate. Donnet has guided Generali through the COVID-19 crises, helping it to reach its goals until the end 2021.

Caltagirone and Del Vecchio are the founders of Ray-Ban, as well as Caltagirone who is a building magnate. They have also been increasing their Generali stakes. Caltagirone has increased its holdings at Mediobanca which puts pressure on Alberto Nagel.

Caltagirone, Del Vecchio, and Caltagirone made an agreement to confer over Generali decisions. The two control a 12.5% combined stake. This was after a third investor signed their pact.

This threshold is close to Mediobanca’s 13% share in Generali. It makes Mediobanca a significant contributor to the Milanese Investment Bank’s profit. Last week, the bank borrowed additional shares in Generali in order to attain 17.2% voting rights.

Del Vecchio was the major investor in Mediobanca two years back and has now criticised the bank’s dependence on that Generali stake.

Mediobanca stated that it will keep Generali’s enlarged voting stake until the AGM next spring, when shareholders will decide on who the CEO is.

Generali will have a significant role for institutional investors. They account for 40% of the company’s shareholders.

Caltagirone, Del Vecchio, and Caltagirone have indicated to Reuters they are open to supporting a new list of board nominees.