January 23, 2019 / 5:29 PM / 4 months ago

Elliott's target Pernod names Lead Independent Director

PARIS, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Penod Ricard, the family-backed French spirits group under pressure from activist investor Elliott, said on Wednesday it named business veteran Patricia Barbizet to the newly created role of Lead Independent director to further improve its governance.

The board of directors also approved the departure of longtime family ally and former CEO Pierre Pringuet from his current role as vice-chairman of the board.

Pringuet will however stay on as a board director, the company said in a statement.

“The decision taken by the board to create the role of Lead Independent Director is the continuity of a thought-process that started in July 2018,” Chairman and CEO Alexandre Ricard said.

It followed “the triennial external review of the board and the feeback we’ve received from our long-term shareholders,” he added.

The move also comes after activist fund Elliott disclosed in December it had spent around 930 million euros ($1.1 billion) to build a stake of just over 2.5 percent in the world’s second-biggest spirits maker.

Elliott has called on the maker of Martell cognac and Jameson whiskey to raise profit margins to bring them more in line with larger rival Diageo and improve governance.

In particular, it believes Pernod’s 15-member board needs to be more diverse and have more independent voices, as many directors are linked to the Ricard family. (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Leigh Thomas)

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