Activist fund Bluebell targets board changes at Richemont

By Michael Shields

ZURICH (Reuters) -Activist fund manager Bluebell Capital Partners is seeking changes to the board at Richemont, Richemont said on Tuesday, Bluebell’s first salvo against the Swiss luxury group that makes Cartier jewellery and IWC watches.

London-based Bluebell, with around 250 million euros ($255.98 million) in assets, grabbed the spotlight last year when its campaign at French group Danone led to a management overhaul.

The company has another live campaign in France targeting construction materials giant Saint Gobain. Its website lists eight companies in its crosshairs.

Bluebell wants Richemont to designate a representative of the holders of ‘A’ shares – which are listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange – and elect that representative to the board, the Swiss group said.

Bluebell also seeks to increase the minimum number of board members to six and to have an equal number of representatives of ‘A’ and ‘B’ shareholders on the board. ‘B’ shares, held by Compagnie Financière Rupert according to Richemont’s website, are not listed and represent 9.1% of the company’s equity but carry 50% of the voting rights.

The proposals will be submitted at the annual general meeting on Sept. 7. Richemont said it was reviewing the proposals and would comment on them in due course.

Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Jon Cox was sceptical that Bluebell would succeed with its plan.

“Richemont’s shareholder structure, giving ten times the voting rights to holders of the B shares, looks out of date compared with more modern governance practices,” he said.

“However, the share structure itself means that any change in the makeup of the board will be decided by (Chairman) Johann Rupert and probably not by Bluebell.”

Shares in Richemont, in which activist hedge fund Third Point reportedly built a stake last year, slipped 0.4% in early trade.

($1 = 0.9767 euros)

(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Additional reporting by Pamela Barbaglia; editing by Louise Heavens and Susan Fenton)


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