Generali has suspended the executive who had been put forward by one of its rebel shareholders as a rival candidate to lead the company, in the latest twist to the power struggle at Italy’s largest insurer.
The group said on Wednesday that Luciano Cirinà, its head of Austria and central Europe, had been “suspended with immediate effect and until further notice”, to be replaced on an interim basis by Giovanni Liverani, chief of its German business.
Cirinà has been proposed by Francesco Gaetano Caltagirone, the construction tycoon who is a major shareholder in Generali, to take over as chief executive of the group at a crunch vote to be held at its annual meeting next month.
Caltagirone has also nominated Claudio Costamagna, an ex-Goldman Sachs banker who has previously served as chair of state-backed investor Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, to be the insurer’s chair.
Generali put forward its own list this month, with current chief executive Philippe Donnet nominated to remain in the role, with Andrea Sironi, the chair of Italy’s stock exchange, selected to be the group’s chair.
The AGM will be a big moment in a months-long struggle with Caltagirone and fellow shareholder, billionaire Leonardo Del Vecchio, on the one side, and Generali’s biggest shareholder Mediobanca — which backs Donnet — on the other.
The rebel shareholders have publicly criticised the management of Generali, with Caltagirone’s spokesperson calling the struggle a “battle for efficiency”. A person close to Del Vecchio’s holding company Delfin has accused the current management of a lack of ambition when it comes to dealmaking.
In December, the insurer attempted to get back on the offensive by outlining a three-year strategic plan, with Donnet saying he will not be “distracted” by the external criticism.
Costamagna and Cirinà are expected to unveil their alternative strategy for Generali to investors at a presentation at the Four Seasons hotel in Milan on Friday.
Generali did not specify a reason for the suspension. A person familiar with the matter said that Donnet had denied Cirinà’s request for a leave of absence after he was nominated by Caltagirone. The further decision to suspend was taken after management learned of Cirinà’s role in the presentation this week, the person said.
The voting is expected to be finely balanced between Mediobanca, which has recently borrowed shares, on one side, and the rebellious investors — which also include banking foundation Fondazione CRT — on the other.
Which way institutional investors swing will therefore prove crucial to the result, analysts say.
Source: Financial Times