France's Danone appoints new board members, boosts COVID crisis oversight

FILE PHOTO: Cecile Cabanis, Chief Financial Officer of French food group Danone, arrives to attend a news conference to present the company's 2015 annual results in Paris, France, February 23, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - French food group Danone said on Monday it was naming departing finance chief Cecile Cabanis to the newly created role of non-executive Vice Chairman of the board and appointing three new independent board members as it seeks to improve governance.

Danone, which said the move followed “a phase of active dialogue with shareholders”, also said it was setting up a strategy committee to monitor the progress of its global plan to adapt its business to the COVID-19 crisis.

Last month, Danone unveiled plans to cut up to 2,000 jobs, trim product ranges and reorganise its global business to become leaner and more agile in a post-COVID environment.

Danone announced in October that as part of a management shake-up Cabanis would leave her previous role as chief finance officer in February and would be replaced by Juergen Esser.

It proposed Gilles Schnepp, Ariane Gorin and Susan Roberts as new independent board members.

The new strategy and transformation committee, which will be chaired by Benoit Potier, will focus on the review of the company’s portfolio and implementing its growth and efficiency plan, Danone said.

In October, Danone announced it was looking at strategic options for its Argentina business and its plant-based North American brand Vega, which have combined sales of about 500 million euros, and would later conduct a more in depth portfolio review to prune underperforming assets.

With the expected changes and proposed nominees, Danone’s board of Directors will after the next shareholders meeting slated for April 29 2021, comprise 16 members, of which 10 will be independent directors compared with 8 now.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Kirsten Donovan