Danone Will Remove Faber as CEO

March 1, 2021
He will stay on as chairman as board separates roles of chairman and chief executive.

Danone's Board of Directors today (March 1) voted to separate the roles of Chairman and CEO "in the near future," leaving Emmanuel Faber as non-executive chairman but starting a search for a new CEO. Until the new chief is found, Faber will continue as CEO "with the full confidence and unanimous support of the board."

The news comes after several large investors expressed dissatisfaction with the trajectory of the company, which released mixed financials 10 days earlier. In a year in which most big food companies did well, Danone's sales dropped 6.6% to 23.6 billion euros ($28.5 billion), although net income inched up 1.4% to 1.9 billion euros ($2.4 billion).

Also, the company said it will convert its 9.8% indirect stake in China Mengniu Dairy Company Ltd. into a direct holding as a first step toward disposal. Danone has held the investment since 2013; it should be worth 850 million euros.

Danone has made a handful of acquisitions of late, including the $12.5 billion purchase of WhiteWave Foods in 2017, which brought it the Silk brand of plant-based dairy products. But last November it announced a restructuring, which indicated 2,000 layoffs.

Danone called the CEO separation idea "a proposal from Emmanuel Faber." He noted, "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 am convinced they will make the execution of our plan and our mission much stronger."

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