PARIS Feb 28 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
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
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
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.