© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Generali logo can be seen on the company tower in Milan's CityLife district, Italy, November 5, 2018. REUTERS / Stefano Rellandini
By Gianluca Semeraro and Claudia Cristoferi
MILAN (Reuters) – Two leading Generali (MI:) investors stand ready to urge to replace current CEO Philippe Donnet if the board of directors of leading Italian insurer fails to reach an agreement to keep him on the job, three sources said who are close to the matter.
The Trieste-based insurer will appoint a new board next spring, and speculation about Donnet's future has increased in recent months as tensions simmered among shareholders.
In a sign that battle lines are being drawn, Generali investors, Francesco Gaetano Caltagirone and Leonardo Del Vecchio, announced a pact on Saturday to consult decisions on Generali.
The reappointment of Donnet is in the hands of the Generali board of directors, who for the first time can submit their own board candidates after the insurer's statutes were changed last year.
The sources said the two businessmen who made the 10.95% joint stake pact are ready to submit their own list of board members. The list would not include the current CEO even though he is ready to run for another mandate, they said.
Donnet is already working on a new business plan for Generali due in December after leading the company through the COVID-19 crisis and keeping it on track to fully meet the goals of the current plan by the end of 2021.
Donnet currently enjoys the support of Alberto Nagel, CEO of the Milanese bank Mediobanca (OTC :), which is Generali's main investor with 12.9%, as well as many board members of the insurer.
Del Vecchio and Caltagirone are also the first and second largest investors in Mediobanca, respectively.
However, over the past year, both Caltagirone, whose businesses range from construction to publishing, and Del Vecchio, founder of Ray-Ban owner Luxottica, have been critical of Donnet's strategy, which they support in finding merger and acquisition opportunities hold carefully.
According to one of the sources, the two businessmen could also propose a new chairman with an established international profile to oversee Generali's growth strategies.
A compromise between shareholders is still possible, said another of the sources, and one solution could be the appointment of a director, supported by both Del Vecchio and Caltagirone, who works with Donnet.
However, positions are still far apart, the sources said ahead of an important September 27 meeting when the Generali board will initiate the process of submitting its own list of nominees.
Before that, Generali's non-executive board members will meet on September 14 to find common ground, a fourth source said. Donnet will not be attending the meeting since he is a board member, the source added.
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