By Silke Koltrowitz
GENEVA (Reuters) -Luxury goods group Richemont successfully batted away proposals from activist investor Bluebell Capital at an annual shareholder meeting Wednesday in which tensions flared.
An overwhelming majority of the Cartier maker's shareholders rejected Bluebell's candidate Francesco Trapani, a former executive of rival LVMH, to represent holders of publicly traded A shares on the group's board and instead opted for current board member Wendy Luhabe.
“I’m happy to see that our shareholders trust the management,” Richemont chairman Johann Rupert said, speaking to reporters after the meeting.
"It's not an ideal outcome but a victory to have an A shareholder representative," on the board, Bluebell partner Giuseppe Bivona told Reuters, signalling that the fund does not intend to back down from demands.
"We are very patient," said Bivona.
Rupert and Bivona clashed during the meeting, with Bivona accusing Rupert of "trying to shut me down" while Rupert said Bivona had called him "all kinds of Italian names in the newspapers."
Luhabe won the backing of 83.97% of shareholders of 'A' shares, while Trapani had 9.5%.
Richemont has two types of shares, allowing the South African billionaire to call the shots via unlisted B shares representing 9.1% of the capital, but 50% of voting rights.
Shareholders also voted against Bluebell's proposals to double the minimum number of board members and have equal numbers of A and B shareholder representatives on the board.
(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz and Mimosa Spencer; editing by Jason Neely and Elaine Hardcastle)