China Food

Suddenly, Danone will have a new CEO! Fan Yimou will remain chairman

Following yesterday’s announcement that it will divest its stake in Mengniu, Danone, a well-known French food giant with brands such as Evian, Atami and pulsation, has sent another important message. This morning, Danone officially announced that it would separate the positions of chairman and CEO. This means that Danone, which is in the critical period of transformation, has formally taken the first step towards these proposals after receiving suggestions from a number of radical investors. Danone said today that in the next few weeks, its board of directors and chairman will continue to engage constructively with shareholders to ensure success in the new stage.

Next, let’s take a look at more details.


According to Danone’s circular, after the meeting held on March 1, Danone’s board reviewed corporate governance and decided to separate the positions of chairman and CEO in the near future on the basis of the proposal of Emmanuel Faber, the current chairman and CEO. The separation will take effect after the appointment of a new CEO, and the recruitment process has started, the circular said. Once completed, Mr Fan will focus on his role as a non-executive chairman. At the same time, fan Yimou will continue to be the chairman and CEO of the board of directors. With the full trust and consistent support of the board of directors, he will exercise full operational responsibility for the company and lead the implementation of the “local priority” plan.

“Following this plan and Rethinking the governance that best suits the company’s new milestone, Danone’s management and board of directors have had an open dialogue with shareholders, social partners and many other internal and external stakeholders in recent months.” Danone said.

Emmanuel Faber, chairman and CEO of Danone

除了这一重磅决定,达能今天也再次宣布了其他的董事会人员变更,以继续加强治理。据悉,该公司已决定任命Gilles Schnepp与Cécile Cabanis一同担任副主席,并将首席独立董事兼治理委员会主席的职能立即委任给Jean-Michel Severino。

小食代介绍过,达能于去年12月宣布了董事会架构和多名成员调整。在该次调整中,Gilles Schnepp原本是达能下一任首席独立董事,他在全球电气与智能建筑系统知名公司罗格朗(Legrand)、工业集团圣戈班、法国车企标致雪铁龙集团等均有职务。而达能前任首席财务官Cécile Cabanis也是在那时被任命为董事会副主席的。

至于最新出任达能首席独立董事的Jean-Michel Severino,据通报显示,在过去的十年中,其曾担任达能企业社会责任委员会成员以及审计委员会主席。

“I am honored to be the next chief independent director of Danone.” Jean Michel Severino said in the briefing, “I thank the board of directors for entrusting this role to me, which is crucial as we enter the transition phase. I also look forward to continued fruitful dialogue with our shareholders. “

Fan Yimou said: “I am very glad that we have taken this step in the arrangement of corporate governance. As we have launched the local priority plan, it will enable us to predict the next stage of Danone’s development as a truly unique company and take a new step towards remodeling. I want to thank all of our shareholders, board members, our employees and social partners who have contributed to these decisions. I firmly believe that they will make the implementation of our plans and missions stronger. “

In the next few weeks, Danone’s board of directors and chairman will continue to have constructive contact with shareholders, the circular said. “They believe that Danone’s strategy, corporate vision, unique goal driven model, brand strength and team reliability will be closely linked, and they will be fully committed to ensuring the success of this new stage.” Danone said.

Fan Yimou’s history

According to the data, Danone Group announced the change of the company’s management on September 2, 2014, separating the two functions of the chairman and the chief executive officer. Fan Yimou, the former chief operating officer, took over as the CEO of Danone Group, while Frank Lieb continued to be the chairman. The new structure took effect on October 1 of that year. As for the above arrangement, Danone explained that “Lieb hopes to focus on the issues related to the group’s medium and long-term strategy and lay a smooth foundation for its future success”. Li Bu also said that the reason for recommending fan Yimou was that he had worked with him in the Executive Committee and the board of directors since 1997, believing that the latter played a key role in all major decisions on Danone.

Looking back at the timing of this change in the management structure, it is not difficult to find that Danone experienced many challenges in the previous two years, including the performance of its fresh dairy business in Western Europe and the recall of its Asian market due to the Fonterra Oolong incident last year. All these put pressure on Danone’s sales and profits. On October 19, 2017, Danone announced again that from December 1 of that year, CEO fan Yimou will concurrently serve as the chairman of the board of directors, which means that the chairman and CEO of the group have returned to the era of “two in one”. In the history of Danone, “two in one” is the norm. On the 18th of last month, artisan partners, which claims to be the third largest shareholder of Danone, proposed that Danone should separate the positions of chairman and CEO. In fact, in just a few months since the end of last year, bluebell partners and Causeway capital, both Danone investors, have made the same comments.

Fan Yimou


During his tenure as CEO, he paid attention to strengthening the relationship with Chinese partners. He successively took shares in Mengniu, a subsidiary of COFCO, and Yashili, a subsidiary of Mengniu. He also promoted the sale of Domex’s China business, which was hit hard by the Botox Oolong incident, and introduced the international milk powder brand business in China. In addition, the beverage business assets of lebacit and Yili were also disposed during the period, and he also continued to adjust the pulse business.

Internationally, fan Yimou personally led Danone’s “largest investment in ten years”, and in 2016, he invested US $12.5 billion to take over Baibo company, the largest organic and non genetically modified dairy products, fresh food and coffee cream manufacturer in the United States. This also makes Danone’s advantages in plant based business greatly improved.

Foreign comments

For this change, it also triggered the analysis of French and even international media.


Reuters today quoted a source familiar with the discussion as saying that the process of finding the CEO may be very fast. The names of as many as eight candidates have been circulated among the members of the board of directors, “this matter will be settled in 2022.”.

According to the Afp report, artisan partners, a radical investor with a stake in Danone, has only achieved partial success. It wanted to elect a new chairman and CEO at the same time, but Danone’s board refused: if the proposal is passed, it will also lead to the interruption of the “local priority” strategy. Bluebell capital partners, another radical investor in London, also proposed to look for a CEO outside Danone, after which the Board unanimously agreed to separate the chairman and CEO. According to the report, bluebell has threatened to raise the issue at the shareholders’ meeting in April if the board disagrees. “Fan Yimou is the first CEO in Danone’s history who is not from the founder’s family.” Agence France Presse said today that he had previously said that he would not be stubborn about separating the chairman from the CEO.

The Figaro newspaper pointed out today that fan Yimou succeeded in remaining as chairman of the board, but he needed to hand over the position of CEO. Monday’s board meeting was full of “intense debate,” the paper said. Figaro also reviewed fan Yimou’s experience in Danone, pointing out that he joined Danone in 1997, was appointed CEO in October 2014, and became chairman of the board from December 1, 2017. According to the newspaper, today’s decision can end the board’s doubts about corporate governance several months ago, but it is not clear whether it is enough to “calm down” radical investors. The financial times also said today that it remains to be seen whether the latest announcement will satisfy “rebellious” radical investors. Quoting a spokesman for artisan, he said he had noted the latest progress and would respond in due course. Bluebell declined to comment. Fan Yimou, 57, has made a big name in recent years for calling for a more sustainable society, but last year’s epidemic put pressure on the company’s business and share price, the paper said. The financial times also noted that there were other highlights in the latest announcement. Among them, the most notable is the adjustment of the selection of the chief independent director, who is a person with special power in the board of directors and provides management insights for the board of directors.

Gilles Schnepp

去年12月,达能提议由Gilles Schnepp出任该职务,但现在改为由Jean-Michel Severino出任。熟悉情况的两位消息人士解读,这是范易谋的“胜利”,因为新的首席独立董事是其盟友,Gilles Schnepp的角色则被“中和”。

The company pointed out today that last week bluebell proposed Gilles Schnepp as a candidate for chairman. When reviewing fan Yimou’s experience as CEO, he pointed out that during his term of office, he was committed to improving Danone’s environmental and social performance, as well as repairing Danone’s yogurt business. In 2017, Danone acquired the plant-based giant whitewave at a price of more than US $10 billion. Meanwhile, Danone has continuously implemented organizational restructuring in the past seven years.

Pay attention to “xiaoshidai” (wechat: foodinc) “and reply to” Danone “to see the wonderful news.

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