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Richemont Shareholders Reject Activist Bluebell’s Demands

Richemont Shareholders Reject Activist Bluebell’s Demands
A Cartier de Panthere wristwatch. Photographer: Jeanne Frank/Bloomberg

Richemont shareholders rejected Bluebell Capital Partners Ltd.’s proposal to add the former head of Bulgari to its board, a defeat for the activist investor’s campaign to boost shareholder representation.

The Swiss luxury goods company instead named an existing board member, Wendy Luhabe, to represent investors in the traded shares in an attempt to defuse the conflict.

The vote followed verbal sparring between Chairman Johann Rupert, who controls the Cartier brand owner through its B-class stock, and Giuseppe Bivona, the founding partner of Bluebell. The South African billionaire holds 10% of the company’s share capital and yet controls 51% of its voting rights. While the outcome is a victory for Rupert, the company did cede a bit more influence to Class-A shareholders for the first time in 34 years.

Luhabe had support from 84% of Class-A shareholders, while Trapani had 9.5%.

Bivona, in an interview, said the result was a “partial victory” for Bluebell as Richemont designated a specific board member to represent the traded shares for the first time.

“It’s an important step and not an insignificant one,” he said.

Rupert said he’s “happy that shareholders trusted the management,” and that his family has no intention of lowering its stake.

Francesco Trapani led the Bulgari jewelry brand for nearly three decades until 2011 and was a founding partner of Bluebell in 2019.

Richemont’s management, as well as several shareholder advisory firms, recommended voting against Trapani. Richemont management argued the former Bulgari and Tiffany & Co. executive is too closely associated with rival LVMH, which owns both brands.

Richemont announced a deal last month to sell a stake in its online retail business YNAP to Farfetch Ltd.

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