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Report: Essilor opposed to Luxottica CEO Milleri leading merged company

Essilor International is opposed to Luxottica Group SpA CEO Francesco Milleri becoming the chief executive of the Italian-French merged entity, EssilorLuxottica SA, the Financial Times reported March 12.

In November 2018, Leonardo Del Vecchio, founder and executive chairman of the Italian eyewear company, was reported to have proposed that Milleri become CEO of EssilorLuxottica, about a month after the two companies completed their €48 billion merger.

The French lens-maker, however, thinks Milleri does not have the required experience to lead the combined company, the newspaper reported, citing people close to Essilor.

Essilor reportedly is open to any other CEO with the right experience, including its CEO, Laurent Vacherot. Essilor Chairman Hubert Sagnières also could fill the role on an interim basis, sources told the Financial Times.

Shortly after Del Vecchio's endorsement of Milleri, Olivier Pecoux, independent director at EssilorLuxottica, told Reuters that "the appointment of Luxottica CEO Francesco Milleri is not on the agenda."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson from Del Vecchio's holding company, Delfin S.a.r.l., told the news agency that its chairman's previous comments "shouldn't be interpreted as his desire to appoint" Milleri to head EssilorLuxottica. The spokesperson also said Del Vecchio was rather "expressing his desire to delegate to Milleri some operational functions of his role as executive chairman of EssilorLuxottica to be exercised jointly with Sagnières," the report said.

"It is understood that this proposal would not alter the balance of powers between Del Vecchio and Sagnières," the spokesperson reportedly added.

Del Vecchio, through his family's Luxembourg-based company Delfin, is the largest shareholder of the combined group and owns about a third of the capital. However, the two companies reportedly have an agreement that they will share powers equally until May 2020.

EssilorLuxottica, which is due to start its CEO search in January and complete the process by 2020-end, has not made much progress with the recruitment, people close to the company reportedly said. Sources added that EssilorLuxottica's nomination committee is yet to appoint recruiters or make a shortlist of probable candidates, the report said.

Essilor declined to comment, and Luxottica did not respond to the newspaper's email requesting for comment.