PARIS (Reuters) - EssilorLuxottica (ESLX.PA), the spectacles company formed by the merger of sector leaders Essilor and Italy’s Luxottica, said its search for a new chief executive would start next year as planned, dismissing speculations about a power struggle.
“The search for a new CEO will start in January 2019. The appointment of Luxottica CEO Francesco Milleri is not on the agenda,” Olivier Pecoux, an independent board member, said in a statement made on behalf of the board.
Pecoux read out the statement as EssilorLuxottica held its first shareholders meeting on Thursday as a newly combined company, after French group Essilor completed a merger with Luxottica to create a world leader in lenses and eyewear.
The combination of the two has created a company with a combined market value of around 50 billion euros ($57 billion).
Some smaller rivals and opticians have expressed concerns that the merged company might use its strength to get opticians to buy their eyewear and lenses in a single package, leveraging on Luxottica’s strong brand portfolio which includes Ray Ban, Oakley and Persol as well as licensed names such as Chanel.
Having had some initial concerns about the deal, the European Commission approved the transaction unconditionally earlier this year, which led investors and bankers to speculate over more consolidation in the related industries.
Under the terms of the merger, Leonardo Del Vecchio, founder and executive chairman of Luxottica, and Essilor CEO Hubert Sagnieres are sharing powers for the first three years.
Last month, the group’s co-CFO Stefano Grassi said a search for a new CEO would start in January and headhunters would have until the end of 2020 to come up with a name. The board would then be entitled to approve the nomination.
But earlier this month, Luxottica said its chairman and founder Del Vecchio had expressed his intention to propose Luxottica Chief Executive Francesco Milleri as CEO of the new merged group.
Del Vecchio, who now acts as executive chairman of EssilorLuxottica, on Thursday confirmed his intention of abiding to the terms of the merger.
Reporting by Matthias Blamont; Additional reporting by Valentina Za; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta