Bluebell Capital Partners has published a new deck in support of its governance campaign at Richemont, insisting the luxury group needs its director nominee to address years of relative underperformance.
In a 32-slide presentation earlier this week, Bluebell noted that Richemont has fallen behind peers including Hermès and LVMH in terms of shareholder returns in recent years due to several strategic missteps. Bluebell also published its previous letters and statements.
The activist pinpointed Richemont’s “poor governance” as the root cause for this underperformance and argued its proposals, including adding the firm’s own Francesco Trapani as a director, is a necessary step.
Bluebell, whose stake is worth around 109 million Swiss francs ($113 million), believes an increased focus on jewelry and watches could lead to a doubling of Richemont’s share price in the medium-term.
The luxury group earlier this week announced that it was ceding control over its loss-making online fashion retailer Yoox Net-A-Porter, a deal long awaited by many investors including Artisan Partners. The U.S. activist fund said last year that Yoox Net-A-Porter was a drag on Richemont’s valuation. In its most recent presentation, Bluebell said Yoox Net-A-Porter “has no strategic fit” and highlighted that Richemont’s discount to peer Hermès significantly widened after the Yoox Net-A-Porter acquisition plan was unveiled in early 2018.
Aside from nominating former Bulgari CEO Trapani to Richemont’s board, Bluebell has also proposed two bylaw changes for the September 7 annual meeting. These are set to give more power to common shareholders and reduce that of Chairman Johann Rupert, who controls Richemont through unlisted super-voting Class B stock.
The contest attracted mixed verdicts from proxy voting advisers. While each of Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), Glass Lewis, and Ethos recommended against Bluebell’s director candidate, the three firms were split on the activist’s other two motions, with ISS backing both and Glass Lewis opposing them.
Pushing against Trapani’s candidacy, Richemont said his history at rival LVMH made him inappropriate for a board role, an argument Bluebell rejected as “specious and unreasonable.” Trapani is competing against sitting director Wendy Luhabe for the position of board representative of Class A shareholders.