LONDON — Richemont shareholders have rejected activist Bluebell Capital Partners’ candidate for the board, voting instead for the company’s choice, Wendy Luhabe, during the annual general meeting in Geneva on Wednesday.
Although Richemont did not immediately disclose the number of votes each candidate received, the company said that Luhabe, a non-executive director, won by a “compelling majority.” Luhabe will now be the representative of Richemont’s “A” shareholders.
Richemont shares rose 0.5 percent to 105.95 Swiss francs in late afternoon trading, following the vote.
The “A” shares are publicly traded, while the “B” shares are owned by the family of Johann Rupert, Richemont’s founder and chairman. Bluebell had been pushing Richemont to appoint a representative of the “A” shareholders, and had wanted luxury veteran Francesco Trapani, the former CEO of Bulgari and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton executive, to step into the role.
Bluebell has a small minority stake in Richemont, and wants to work together with company’s management to put the focus exclusively on hard luxury, and for a wider group of shareholders to have a voice.
Bluebell has said it could help to bolster Richemont’s share value in the medium term.
Richemont added that Bluebell’s other proposals to amend its articles of incorporation “did not achieve majority approval and were rejected by ‘A’ and ‘B’ shareholders.”
The luxury giant, parent of brands including Cariter, IWC and Van Cleef & Arpels, said that all other matters on the agenda were approved by the shareholders, most by an overwhelming majority.
Last month, Rupert had urged shareholders to vote in favor of Luhabe, and to reject all proposals for more minority shareholder representation at Richemont.
The proposal of Luhabe as the “A” representative dovetails with Richemont’s commitment to new, and higher, ESG and DEI standards.
Luhabe was elected to the Richemont board in 2020 and serves as a non-executive director and a member of the board’s nominations committee.
She has a long relationship with Richemont, and chaired Vendôme South Africa, Richemont’s subsidiary in the region, from 2001 to 2011.
Richemont has described her as a social entrepreneur and economic activist “with multiple honors for her pioneering contribution to the economic empowerment of women in South Africa.”
She is the founding chair of Women in Infrastructure Development and Energy, which focuses on the economic empowerment of women, and of Bridging the Gap, an organization that equips Black graduates with corporate skills.
She is also the founder of the Women Private Equity Fund, South Africa’s first private venture capital fund for women, and helped to start Women Investment Portfolio Holdings, which empowers women to become investors in the South African economy. Luhabe also created the Wendy Luhabe Foundation and established a scholarship at the University of Johannesburg.