PARIS (Reuters) – Eyewear group EssilorLuxottica’s feuding French and Italian partners are close to signing a peace deal to end a boardroom dispute over the group’s leadership that threatened to pull it apart, France’s Les Echos business daily reported on Sunday.
Citing two unnamed sources familiar with the matter, Les Echos said the agreement could be signed later on Sunday evening.
A spokeswoman for EssilorLuxottica declined to comment.
EssilorLuxottica resulted from the 54 billion euro merger last October of French lenses maker Essilor and Italian frame manufacturer Luxottica, which were supposed to have equal weighting in the combined company’s leadership but which accuse each other of trying to dominate.
Tensions became apparent in November when Luxottica’s founder, Leonardo Del Vecchio, who is chairman of the merged entity, appeared to tap his right-hand man and chief executive of Luxottica, Francesco Milleri, for the group CEO role, irking the French side.
Les Echos said the plan would temporarily hand more power to Milleri and Laurent Vacherot, Essilor’s chief executive, to accelerate the fusion of the group, with the aim of naming a new group chief executive in 2020.
A spokesman for Del Vecchio was not immediately available for comment.
Under the terms of the agreement, each side will cease pursuing judicial means to resolve the row, which had only intensified the dispute, Les Echos said.
In March, Del Vecchio, now the group’s largest shareholder, filed an arbitration request with the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce, a process that takes an average of two years. In response, Essilor asked a Paris court to nominate an outside mediator.
EssilorLuxottica’s board has been under pressure to find a solution as investors expressed concern the leadership crisis could delay or scupper promised savings linked to the deal.
(Reporting by Richard Lough and Matthias Blamont in Paris and Claudia Cristoferi in Milan; Editing by Peter Cooney)