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June 10, 2021

Former Danone CEO Emmanuel Faber hits out at former employer

The company's former leader was speaking to a committee of France's National Assembly.

Emmanuel Faber, ousted from Danone in March following pressure from investors and suggestions of internal division, claims the company is no longer able to act independently.

Faber has called for company boards in France to be reformed to be better able to fight off pressure from disgruntled investors, including activist shareholders.

In hard-hitting remarks made to The Economic Affairs Committee of France’s National Assembly yesterday (9 June) – reported by news agencies AFP and Reuters, amongst others – Faber said the Alpro and Activia brands owner has “compromised” itself in regards to its relationship with investors pushing for change.

Faber was forced out following several months of challenges relating to Danone’s management structure and its strategy by investors Artisan Partners and Bluebell Capital, which were unhappy about the firm’s performance.

Speaking to the committee, Faber said: “When we allied ourselves in this way [with the investment firms] and compromised in this way, unfortunately, I think that this council is not in a position today to ensure the defence and the sovereignty of Danone.”

He described what he believes was an alliance as “an extremely unhealthy game” and added: “When you start a game like this, it’s hard to stop it”.

And, pointing to internal divisions, Faber said: “The activists came because of dysfunctions of the council. They are as much the consequence as they are the cause.

“Certain activists inside the council used these shareholder activists for purposes which were personal to them and which led to the result which we only see the beginning of today, with my departure.”

He called for reforming the functioning of boards of directors in France and in Europe, in order to “endow them with a backbone.”

Faber was replaced as Danone’s chairman by Gilles Schnepp while Antoine de Saint-Affrique was recently appointed CEO. He will take up his post on 15 September.

Just Food asked Danone for a response to Faber’s remarks but it said it would not be commenting.

Analysis: Stakeholder capitalism advocates positive despite Faber’s exit from Danone

Analysis: High expectations – the challenge facing new Danone CEO Antoine de Saint-Affrique

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