February 28, 2013 / 5:30 PM / 4 years ago

Belvedere shareholders call for board dismissal

PARIS, Feb 28 (Reuters) - The board of debt-laden French spirits group Belvedere faced calls for their dismissal at an unruly meeting on Thursday, marked by shouts and heckling as shareholders met to vote on a debt restructuring plan.

Threatened with a substantial dilution of their holdings under the plan, some shareholders at the meeting demanded the immediate revocation of the board of Belvedere, which has been in the hands of a court-appointed administrator since March 2012.

Having been asked to vote on the plan, shareholders instead shouted "revocation" and about 30 walked up to the stage, forcing security guards to intervene to stop the meeting from degenerating into chaos.

Shareholders asked for the dismissal of the board be put to a vote later in the meeting.

Belvedere's administrator had warned earlier this month there was no alternative plan and that failure to ratify it could mean mass layoffs at the company, whose shareholders include U.S. movie star Bruce Willis.

The meeting aimed to win shareholder approval for the debt restructuring plan agreed with Belvedere's creditors last September after years of hard-fought negotiations.

The plan, backed by the company's executives including Chief Executive Krzysztof Trylinski, would involve Belvedere's entire debt being converted into shares, diluting existing shareholders to just 13 percent.

The drinks maker, founded in 1991, filed for court protection in June 2008 from creditors demanding early reimbursement of most of the 535 million euros ($701.3 million) of debt it had issued in 2006 to buy Marie Brizard liquors.

Belvedere, which has since then been at war with its creditors including Oaktree Capital Management, finally struck a deal with them last September.

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