Changes Coming at the Top of Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield?
PARIS — Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield may be poised for a major shakeup in its top echelons.
The French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche reported Sunday, without citing sources, that the French mall operator’s chief executive officer Christophe Cuvillier and chief financial officer Jaap L. Tonckens could leave the company in coming days after recent major changes in governance.
A URW spokeswoman, reached Sunday, said the company does not comment on rumors.
Meanwhile, two U.S. banks have taken minority stakes in URW over the past week. Goldman Sachs said Nov. 9 that its share in the company’s capital had crossed the 5 percent threshold. Then on Nov. 13, the bank upped its holding and voting rights in URW to 11.91 percent. The transactions were made outside of the market, according to a filing with France’s stock market regulator, the Autorité des Marchés Financiers.
Also on Nov. 13, Morgan Stanley Corp. declared it had taken a 9.62 percent stake in URW outside of the market, the AMF said.
Activist investors continue to drive change at the company, with a number of board members resigning from URW on Friday.
During a supervisory board meeting held that day — which included three directors newly elected on Nov. 10: Xavier Niel, Léon Bressler and Susana Gallardo — Colin Dyer resigned as chairman of the board. He had served as chairman since April 2017 and will remain a board member at URW.
The board’s vice chairman Jacques Stern, along with Philippe Collombel, Sophie Stabile and Jacqueline Tammenoms Bakker, resigned as well.
Niel, who had been leading a consortium of URW shareholders, became a member of URW’s remuneration committee. Bressler, a former ceo of Unibail, was named chairman, and Gallardo was appointed member of the governance and nomination committee.
On Nov. 9, the shareholder consortium landed board seats for Niel, Bressler and Gallardo, and later foiled company plans for a 3.5-billion-euro capital increase during a shareholder meeting held remotely.
URW’s plan, named “Reset,” has come under fire from the activist shareholders, who said a rights issue would be severely dilutive, and have called on the company to instead focus on its core European shopping centers and sell its U.S. holdings.
The mall operator has been hard-hit by lockdowns and disruptions to business from the coronavirus crisis.
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