Danone has announced that Emmanuel Faber will be stepping down as CEO to focus on his role as non-executive chairman, following pressure to split the functions from investors.
The company has agreed to separate the dual chairman and CEO roles in the near future, already launching a search process to recruit a new chief executive. The separation will be effective upon the appointment of a new CEO, after which Faber will focus on his role as non-executive chairman.
In the meantime, Faber will continue in both roles, “with the full confidence and unanimous support of the board” to lead the implementation of Danone’s Local First adaptation plan; which aims to unify the management entities in each country and deliver profitable growth.
In recent months, Danone conducted an open dialogue with shareholders, social partners and stakeholders, resulting in activist fund Bluebell Capital Partners calling for the chairman and CEO roles to be split and for Faber to be replaced. Recently, US investment firm Artisan Partners joined Bluebell in pushing for governance changes and efforts to deliver growth.
Danone first combined the two roles back in 2017, as former chairman Franck Riboud handed over his responsibilities to the current CEO Faber.
Commenting on the announcement, Emmanuel Faber, said: “I am pleased we took the governance arrangements that will allow us to anticipate the next phase of development of the truly unique company Danone is, as we open, with our Local First plan, a new step towards the company’s reinvention.
“I want to thank all our shareholders, my colleagues of the board, our employees and social partners who contributed to making these decisions emerge. I am convinced they will make the execution of our plan and our mission much stronger.”
In addition, Danone has appointed Gilles Schnepp to the role of vice-chairman, together with Cécile Cabanis. Meanwhile, Jean-Michel Severino will serve as lead independent director and chairman of the governance committee.
In the coming weeks, Danone says its board and chairman will continue to engage constructively with shareholders as they work to ensure success of the transformation phase.
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