After six months of a dagger-drawn crisis in Danone’s board of directors, fueled by attacks on activist funds, Emmanuel Faber, CEO of the group since 2017, was finally ousted. He is replaced in the presidency by Gilles Schnepp, UFO in the food industry but well-known leader of the CAC 40, who will have to surround himself with a managing director able to restore the confidence of the shareholders and employees of the company. .
How Danone CEO got angry with (almost) everyone
1 – Switches
Until now, Gilles Schnepp did not sell yoghurts but electrical equipment for the home. At 62, he spent more than thirty at Legrand. A graduate of HEC in 1981, he joined the group in 1989 after starting out at US bank Merrill Lynch, and rose through the ranks.
In 2006, he was appointed CEO of the Legrand group – which he reintroduced on the stock market – and became president in 2018. Based in Limoges but present on five continents thanks to acquisitions, Legrand is one of the world leaders in its sector. . Thanks to one of its latest conquests, Netatmo, the group was present at CES in Las Vegas in January 2020 to launch a connected lock.
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2 – “Danoner”
He is called upon to join Danone’s board of directors in mid-December 2020 by two of his relatives, outgoing – Michel Landel, former CEO of Sodexo, and Benoît Potier, CEO of Air Liquide – “To strengthen its independence, diversity and expertise”, according to the terms of the press release announcing his arrival. An appointment made three weeks after the announcement of Danone’s “Local First” reorganization plan and in the midst of an internal governance crisis.
At the time, the board of directors – Emmanuel Faber included – planned to appoint Gilles Schnepp as lead director, greeting a man “Whose expertise in governance is widely recognized, [et qui] has all the skills required to actively contribute to guaranteeing Danone’s balanced governance ”. It was “To send a message of good governance to shareholders” according to a person close to the file.
Danone: Emmanuel Faber saves his head but will no longer manage the group on a daily basis
3 – Avenged
1er March, when he agreed to separate the functions of Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of Danone, Emmanuel Faber reneged on the promise made to Gilles Schnepp. While he was approached by the board of directors to become the lead administrator, Faber confined him to an honorary vice-presidency, giving the first role (after that of president) to his friend Jean-Michel Severino.
Certain administrators had considered this behavior discourteous even humiliating with regard to Schnepp. It will not have lasted. Gilles Schnepp leaves this affair crowned with the title of president, without managing director.
Gilles Schnepp, at Bercy, in 2014
4 – Scrunchie
Between March 2006 and February 2018, twelve years during which Gilles Schnepp served as CEO of Legrand, the share of the manufacturer of electrical equipment more than doubled: it went from 23.22 euros to 65.38 euros, while the CAC 40 gained less than 5% over the same period. The Danone share, it went from 46 to 68.50 euros, an increase of 49%, much lower than the + 183% of Legrand.
In 2013, Gilles Schnepp was ranked fifth boss “The most efficient” of the CAC 40 by the magazine “Challenges”. In 2020, Legrand’s turnover fell by 7.9%, but its dividends increased by 7.6%. We understand that shareholders appreciate the manager.
5 – Globalized
What pleases shareholders does not appeal to all unions. “Gilles Schnepp is a man of finance. He worked to globalize the group, through external acquisitions, while limiting investments in France, where he reduced the workforce., criticizes a trade unionist. There were 10,000 of us in France in 2000, there are only 5,000 today in France. “ However, it leaves the memory of a man open to social dialogue. Michel Robert, central union delegate for the CFDT within the Legrand group, observes:
“Despite his strategy, he was looking for a consensus to make it go as well as possible. There has never been a social plan, site closures were made by natural departures and mobility. It’s unfortunate, of course, but it was harder for the competitors. “
6 – Discreet
There are hardly any crisp anecdotes about Gilles Schnepp, who does not venture outside his professional perimeter – unlike Emmanuel Faber who adored appearances outside Danone. “He is a bit like the Bernard Cazeneuve of the CAC 40. He is very talented and hardworking, but he is rigid and boring because he is too locked in his sector for fear of stepping aside”, can we read in the CAC 40 study by VcomV in 2017. To live happily, let’s live in hiding?
Gilles Schnepp in 2013
7 – Desirable
The former CEO is not unknown to everyone. He is a sought-after member of the boards of directors: he sits at the table of those of Sanofi and Saint-Gobain (since 2009). He also spent two years on the board of PSA before the merger with Fiat Chrysler. According to the governance solutions and data platform, Ethics & Board, Legrand is one of the top performers in terms of governance. Its ex-CEO has orchestrated his succession particularly well, by separating the functions of chairman and managing director, by entrusting the management to a young director (47 years old), then the chairmanship to a woman.
8 – Feminist
Better still, the Legrand group has a third of women on its management committee, making it the sixth company in the CAC 40.- whose bodies are the most feminized. Still according to Ethics & Board, he is one of those who attach the most importance to social and environmental responsibility criteria in the variable compensation of its directors. All this makes Gilles Schnepp, an administrator, even a sought-after president. His name also circulated for the succession of Serge Weinberg at Sanofi.
9 – Oxfam
We do not know what importance Gilles Schnepp gives to the status of a company with a mission that his predecessor at Danone carried as a standard. However, it is difficult to blame him for not caring about social and environmental values. Legrand is one of only three CAC 40 companies, according to the NGO Oxfam, which respects the trajectory of the Paris agreement on global warming. Only six companies – among which Danone is not included – would have a strategy to reduce carbon emissions and, for only three of them – Schneider Electric, EDF and Legrand – a trajectory capable of not causing a rise in temperatures of more than 2 degrees.
For the time being, the arrival of Gilles Schnepp as president of Danone does not seem to call into question its status as a company with a mission. The press release announcing his appointment specifies: “The Board of Directors is convinced of the need to combine a high level of economic performance with respect for the unique business model with Danone’s mission, relying on the strength of its brand portfolio and on exceptional quality. of its teams. “
10 – On horseback
Gilles Schnepp, very keen on issues of governance and respect for shareholder rights, could be intractable on issues of conflict of interest on the board and call into question the place of several directors. Is Franck Riboud former leader in his place? Jean-Michel Severino, who created a fund in which Danone has invested, is he independent? Isabelle Seillier, who was a Danone banker, is she in a good position to be a director? So many avenues to allow the new president to compose a board of directors in his own hands? The game of musical chairs on Danone’s board of directors is probably not over.