Boardroom opponents have Generali CEO in crosshairs
MILAN, June 2 |
MILAN, June 2 (Reuters) - Italy's insurance giant Generali started an extraordinary board meeting on Saturday where opponents of chief executive Giovanni Perissinotto will try to oust him in what they see as a key step to revive the appeal of the group.
The boardroom battle flared up on Friday with Perissinotto and some investors clashing openly. The row is set to culminate at the board meeting that could put well-respected Zurich Financial Group executive Mario Greco at the helm of Europe's third-biggest financial group.
"We are going there to hear what those who have created this mess have to say and explain what has happened," Diego Della Valle, a board member at Generali and owner of shoemaker Tod's said as he entered the meeting venue in the centre of Milan.
Della Valle, widely seen as supporting Perissinotto, declined to say how he would vote.
Perissinotto also declined to comment on the outcome of the meeting.
Perissinotto's opponents, including Luxottica founder and Generali investor Leonardo Del Vecchio, say they were unhappy with the way Perissinotto was running the company and with Generali's underperformance under his rule.
Generali's top investor, Mediobanca, which is leading a coup against long-serving Perissinotto, appears to have mustered enough support to oust him, sources close to the board have told Reuters.
One source familiar with the situation has said up to 12 of Generali's 17 directors could vote to boot out Perissinotto.
With some board members still undecided on their vote, position of three independent directors would be crucial at the board meeting while Perissinotto has received support letters from Generali employees, small shareholders, agents and labour unions, Italian newspapers said on Saturday.
Several analysts were sceptical that a change at the top would fundamentally improve the outlook for Europe's third largest insurer, which has been lagging behind peers mainly due to its 46 billion euros ($57 billion) exposure to Italian sovereign bonds.
Della Valle said the showdown at Generali was a blow to Italy's business image adding: "Surely, the country's credibility has not won."
The fight at the top at Generali comes less than a month after investors forced the departure of Aviva CEO Andrew Moss and just over a year after embittered shareholders kicked Alessandro Profumo out of Italy's top bank, UniCredit. ($1=0.8089 euros) (Reporting by Gianluca Semeraro, writing by Svetlana Kovalyova; Editing by Mike Nesbit)
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