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Emmanuel Faber ousted from the head of Danone

Emmanuel Faber ousted from the head of Danone

For several weeks, the CEO of Danone had faced a sling of shareholders. At the beginning of March, the positions of president and CEO of the agri-food giant were indeed split. But it was not enough in the eyes of some.

Emmanuel Faber was ousted from the head of Danone by the board of directors of the French agribusiness giant and replaced by the former boss of electrical equipment manufacturer Legrand, Gilles Schnepp, French daily Le Figaro said on Sunday evening.

According to the newspaper, the council meeting on Sunday has “acted in the evening” the departure of its leader, which was contested by shareholders hostile to its governance. From the same source, Mr. Schnepp, 62, was brought to the chairmanship of the board.

Contacted by AFP on Sunday evening, a Danone spokesperson was unable to confirm this information.

Mr. Faber, 57, had been Managing Director since 2014 and CEO since 2017. He had been facing a sling of shareholders for several weeks, who had notably demanded the separation of the functions of chairman and chief executive officer in order to restore new vigor to the group, battered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Calls to push him out

But two days later, the investment fund Artisan Parters, which was campaigning for the departure of Mr. Faber, had said “urge the board to review its position”.

This fund, Danone’s third shareholder with around 3% of the capital, called for the appointment “immediately” of a “truly independent” chairman.

Artisan Partners and another shareholder fund, Bluebell Capital Partners, wanted an outright departure from Emmanuel Faber, judging that under his leadership Danone had declined compared to its main competitors.

Making Danone more “agile”

The arrival of Gilles Schnepp at the head of Danone, if it is confirmed, would meet the wishes of these two funds. Mr. Schnepp had just been appointed vice-chairman of the board, alongside Cécile Cabanis, the former chief financial officer of Danone.

These shareholders also demanded that the reorganization and cost reduction plan launched by Emmanuel Faber be at least suspended.

Called “Local First”, this plan, currently being negotiated with the unions, aims according to the outgoing management to make Danone more “agile” and generate savings by removing hierarchical layers. Up to 2,000 job cuts are planned.

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