Top shareholders at Italian insurance giant Generali ousted their CEO with a no-confidence vote Saturday after a public battle over Giovanni Perissinotto's fate and offered his job to someone else.
Shareholders frustrated by the company's poor performance on the stock market voted to show Perissinotto the exit, and Mario Greco, an executive of the Zurich Insurance Group, was offered his job.
"At a meeting today, the Board of Directors of Assicurazioni Generali decided by a majority to revoke the powers conferred on Giovanni Perissinotto as Managing Director and Group CEO," Generali said in a statement.
"The board decided to propose to Mario Greco his appointment as General Manager and Group CEO. The appointment will take place following his co-option to the Board of Directors after termination of his employment with the Zurich Insurance Group," it said.
In the meantime, the company's chairman, Gabriele Galateri di Genola, will be acting CEO, the company said.
Ten members of the board voted against Perissinotto, five voted in favour of keeping him and one abstained, a source close to the matter said.
Investment bank Mediobanca -- the insurance giant's largest shareholder with a 13.24 percent share -- had been baying for Perissinotto's exit.
So had Luxottica, which holds 3.0 percent, De Agostini publishers with 2.43 percent and Caltagirone constructors with 2.27 percent.
The board "expressed its strong gratitude to Giovanni Perissinotto for his work in more than 30 years of service in the interest of the company and of the Group," the statement said.
Luxury leather goods maker Tod's boss Diego Della Valle, who had backed Perissinotto, said he would resign from the board on Monday, having said the affair risks damaging "our country's credibility on the international markets."
The public battle has thrown Generali into turmoil, just a year after chairman Cesare Geronzi was ousted for "improper governance."
The company posted a 50 percent drop in net profit in 2011 and lost another 7.9 percent in the first quarter of 2012, and it was forced to reduce the dividend in 2011 to 0.20 euros per share, down from 0.45 euros in 2010.
"Everyone's worried about the future of the company, let's hope the right decision has been taken," one of the board's independent directors, Claudio De Conto, said as he left Saturday's meeting.
Generali's share price had been down around 30 percent since the start of the year, but the CEO's probable departure saw the shares shoot up by 3.35 percent at the close of Friday trading on Milan's FTSE Mib stock exchange.
Luxottica boss Leonardo Del Vecchio had said Perissinotto had been "unsuited to manage Generali for a long time," but the CEO, who has headed up the Trieste-based Generali since 2001, had refused to go down without a fight.
When Mediobanca summoned Perissinotto on Wednesday, he refused to resign, forcing shareholders to put the matter to a vote.
In a letter published Friday in Italian media, he expressed his "incredulity" and accused Mediobanca of "putting its own interests once more ahead of those of the company."
He said Generali's "performance indicators are among the best in the market," and that the dropping share price was not due to management errors but heavy exposure to Italian debt.
The shareholder uprising comes as new figures show Italian unemployment reached a new high in April and patience with high-earning executives wanes.
In a Europe weighed down by an intense financial crisis, France's new socialist government took the latest stand against what is seen as excessive executive pay, vowing to bring in new measures by mid-June to cap salaries.
The proposal, to cap salaries at no more than 20 times the pay of a company's lowest-paid worker, is likely to be very popular with those sick of seeing CEO's ousted for poor performance but rewarded with golden parachutes.