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Mediobanca’s top investor Del Vecchio seeks more clout By Reuters


© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: The headquarters of Mediobanca Italy is seen in Milan on November 8, 2019. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo/File Photo

By Elisa Anzolin and Valentina Za

MILAN (Reuters) – Mediobanca (OTC:)’s top investor Leonardo Del Vecchio has proposed changing the Italian merchant bank’s by-laws to give more power to its board and shareholders over executives, but said he was not pushing for management or board changes.

Two years ago, Italian eyewear billionaire Del Vecchio rocked Italy’s financial establishment by emerging as the biggest investor in Mediobanca, the Milanese bank that used to pull the strings of Italy Inc.

Del Vecchio, 86, one of Italy’s richest men, has been steadily increasing his Mediobanca holding after gaining a green light from the European Central Bank. His holding company Delfin now has 18.9% ownership, which is worth approximately 1.7 billion euros ($2 million).

Delfin stated that it did not intend to seek to replace Mediobanca’s board and management.

Proposed governance changes will ensure Mediobanca directors and managers pursue the “creation of value for all shareholders…and ultimately leave it to directors and shareholders…to decide who should lead the bank.”

Mediobanca accepted the suggestion in a letter and stated that it will hold a board meeting within the next few days.

Delfin stated that Mediobanca should remove a requirement from its bylaws that at least two to three directors must have been in the same position for three years.

Delfin said that the board should have at least two slates from minority investors to choose its independent directors.

Azzura Guelfi, Citi analyst, said that while the market will likely favor the first proposal, the second one could prove less favorable. She also noted that other minor investors may be more influential if Delfin suggests one of the slates.

Del Vecchio does not have any representatives on Mediobanca’s Board. The board expires once the bank releases results for June 30, 2023.

Del Vecchio disagreed with Alberto Nagel’s strategy when he first bought Mediobanca shares. However, he has now praised Nagel for his latest business plan that was presented in November 2019.

Del Vecchio, Nagel and others have fought over plans for Milanese hospitals in the past. There are also divergent views about Generali (MI:), Italy’s biggest insurance company.

Mediobanca is the largest shareholder in Generali and wants to appoint Philippe Donnet as CEO. Generali board supported this decision on Monday.

Generali’s third largest shareholder Del Vecchio joined an investor pact to push for a change in CEO and strategy.

Italy’s Benetton family was also an investor in Mediobanca as well as Generali on Tuesday. They stated that they wanted to maintain a neutral position in all matters.

Mediobanca’s shares rose 1.3% in the early hours of GMT. This was more than Milan’s bluechip index.

($1 = 0.8537 euros)

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