(Adds details on BRF statements in paragraph 6)
By Ana Mano
SAO PAULO, April 11 (Reuters) - The man tapped by pension funds to preside over the board of BRF SA, Brazil’s largest chicken processor, said he refused to take part in an alternative board lineup, deepening a rift between the food company’s shareholders.
Augusto Cruz, who was nominated to be chairman by pension funds Previ and Petros, said he was surprised to learn his name had been included in an alternative list unveiled by BRF in a securities filing on Friday.
“I was not contacted about taking part in the alternative board,” Cruz told Reuters in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “I am not a part and I don’t agree to be a part of any other board composition.”
Cruz said he was fully committed to the plan spearheaded by Petros and Previ, together owners of 22 percent of BRF, to turn around the company, which lost 1.1 billion reais ($325 million) last year, its worst-ever annual result.
Cruz said he had told securities watchdog CVM and BRF’s investor relations department on Wednesday about his decision not to join the alternative list of board candidates.
In securities filings late on Wednesday and on Thursday, BRF said Cruz, José Luiz Osório de Almeida Filho, Roberto Antônio Mendes and Walter Malieni Júnior had refused to participate in the alternative board lineup, a decision they expressed in letters sent to the company.
CVM confirmed receiving a formal communication regarding the matter, without elaborating.
An extraordinary board meeting is scheduled for April 26 to elect a new board. A dissolution of the board would likely shake up management and remove current Chairman Abilio Diniz, a retail magnate who took the reins five years ago and owns nearly 4 percent of the company.
Diniz was behind the proposal of the alternative list, according to a person familiar of the matter.
Representatives for Diniz did not immediately comment on his relationship with the alternative board line-up.
The company is the subject of a probe into whether its executives bribed inspectors to evade food safety checks.
The investigation, which led to a ban of BRF chicken exports to the European Union, forced the company to place thousands of workers on paid leave as it trimmed output.
BRF shares, which are down almost 39 percent this year, rose 5 percent on Wednesday, the most in a month.
$1 = 3.38 reais Reporting by Ana Mano; editing by Leslie Adler, Amrutha Gayathri and Steve Orlofsky