(Reuters) – Philippe Donnet retained his job as CEO of the Italian insurance company Generali on Friday, surviving a challenge from a group of rebellious domestic investors thanks to strong support from institutional shareholders.
The vote at the company’s annual general meeting ended months of bitter conflict in the heart of Europe’s third largest insurance company, but leaves a question mark as to whether the main challengers will stick to their total share of 20%.
The company’s board nominees, backed by leading shareholder Mediobanca, were supported by 56% of shareholders who voted at the meeting, compared to 42% for a rival list nominated by investor Francesco Gaetano Caltagirone.
But Mr Caltagirone̵7;s share of the vote was enough to ensure that his list would be allocated to three seats on Generali’s board with 13 members, which would potentially make life inconvenient for Mr Donnet, who has been in charge since 2016.
Mr Caltagirone, a construction and media contractor, will be queuing up to take one of the seats as his was the first name on the board presented by his group.
He left the board in January and his camp has pushed for Generali to set more ambitious growth targets and to intensify its business operations.
After speaking after the vote, which was held at a distance due to the covid-19 minutes, Mr. Donnet a call for unity.
“The unequivocal choice of a majority of shareholders is a testament to the confidence they have in our management team and strategic plan,” he said.
“Now we will all work together in one direction with the board, management and our network of agents … to pursue the interests of all stakeholders and the success of our group.”
Mr Caltagirone and other billionaire investors Leonardo Del Vecchio had opposed the list of executives proposed by Generali’s board.
Mr. Caltagirone had nominated former Generali chief Luciano Cirina as a replacement for Mr. Donnet and former Goldman Sachs banker Claudio Costamagna as chairman along with Mr. Cirina.
Mr. Cirina and Mr. Costamagna had named its program “Awakening the Lion”, a reference to General’s nickname “The Lion of Trieste.”
They wanted to spend as much as € 7 billion ($ 7.4 billion) on mergers and acquisitions, compared to the existing board’s plan of € 3 billion, and have also aimed for annual profit growth of more than 14%, with sharp cost reductions and acquisition.