Danone makes change in leadership

by Eric Schroeder
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Franck Riboud (left) will remain chairman of Danone, and Emmanuel Faber will succeed him as chief executive officer.

PARIS — The board of directors of Groupe Danone has voted to separate the roles of chairman and chief executive officer, effective Oct. 1. As a result of the move, Franck Riboud will relinquish his role as c.e.o. to Emmanuel Faber, but Mr. Riboud will remain chairman of the Paris-based company.

Danone said the decision to change its governance reflects Mr. Riboud’s desire to concentrate on key strategic issues facing Danone in the medium and long term.

“I joined Danone 33 years ago and have managed our day-to-day operations for over 18 years,” Mr. Riboud said. “During that time, our company has undergone incredible change, and we have achieved the goals we set back in 1996. Today Danone is a truly global company, oriented toward emerging markets, realigned around a select number of promising businesses in which we are market leaders, and focused on pursuing growth. We have achieved spectacular growth while remaining true to our dual commitment to business success and social progress, and we are still a pace-setter for social innovation. I want to ensure that Danone has everything it needs to lay the groundwork for its future, which is why I recommended separating the functions of chairman and chief executive officer and paving the way for the arrival of a new generation to guide Danone.

“Since 1997, Emmanuel Faber has worked with me on the executive committee and the board, playing a critical role in making and deploying all major decisions concerning Danone. Now 50, he has in-depth knowledge of our company’s structures and operating modes, an understanding of the business and social challenges facing our core businesses, innovative flair, an uncompromising focus on results, and a deep respect for and commitment to Danone’s culture and brands, all of which make him a natural choice to lead our 100,000 employees. He has the full trust of the board of directors. And I am delighted to support him and continue to work closely with him in expanding Danone.”

Mr. Faber began his career as a consultant at Bain & Co. In 1993, he joined Legris Industries as chief administrative and financial officer, and in 1996 was promoted to c.e.o. of the company. He joined Danone in 1997 as head of finance, strategies and information systems. He later was named vice-president for the Asia-Pacific region, and since 2008 has been a deputy general manager, responsible for major corporate functions. He has been a member of the executive committee since 2000 and was appointed vice-chairman of the board in 2011.

Mr. Riboud has been with Danone since 1981, and has been chairman and c.e.o. since 1996. Since 2008, he also has been the chairman of the danone.communities mutual investment fund, and since 2009 he has served as the chairman of the steering committee of the Danone Ecosystem Fund.

In addition to the separation of the chairman and c.e.o. roles, Danone said its board has voted to set up a strategy committee. The committee will be headed by the chairman with participation from the c.e.o. The board also said it will expand the chairman’s duties.

“This decision, made on the recommendation of the nomination and compensation committee, leaves the powers of the board of directors and the c.e.o. unchanged, but will enable the chairman and the c.e.o. to work in concertation on major issues in Danone’s corporate life, and allows the chairman to represent Danone in his contacts with leading stakeholders,” the company said.
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