Del Vecchio, the last battle: breaking the Mediobanca-Generali bond

He leaves his latest financial ‘work’ unfinished

Unhinge the last bastion of the former financial galaxy of the North, dissolving the link between Mediobanca and Generali. To free the insurance group from what it considered a yoke and to make the Leone stand out a dimensional leap, with a large acquisition or merger, on the model of the combination between its Luxottica and the French Essilor. Leonardo Del Vecchio leaves his latest financial ‘work’ unfinished, which led him to be a significant shareholder both in Generali, with 9.82%, and in Mediobanca, with 19.4%. The entrepreneur, who died this morning at the age of 87 in Milan, had been at odds with the management of the institute in Piazzetta Cuccia for years on various dossiers. First of all, the management of Generali, its historic holding.

With Francesco Gaetano Caltagirone he shared a more aggressive and growth-oriented vision for the company, which took shape in September last year in a shareholders’ agreement, extended to the Crt Foundation and then canceled. To weigh more in view of the meeting for the renewal of the board of directors of Generali on April 29, Del Vecchio doubled his stake in Generali, up to a breath of 10%.

Then he publicly supported the program for the Lion presented by the Caltagirone group, which for its part rose to 9.95%. And at the last meeting it voted for the list, together with some entrepreneurial families, including the Benettons. But to win the game for the renewal of the board was the list of the outgoing board of directors, supported by Mediobanca and institutional investors.

But in order to try to break the link between Mediobanca and Generali, the founder of Luxottica tried the assault on Piazzetta Cuccia in parallel. In September 2019, the blitz in the capital of the investment bank caused a sensation, achieved by buying 7% of the shares. Over the years, and with the authorization of the ECB, Del Vecchio has risen up to 19.4%, becoming by far the largest shareholder, without however ever being able to truly affect the governance or strategies of the bank.

Now the roads to Delfin are complicated. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for the holding company to launch a takeover bid on Mediobanca, because it would have to structure itself in such a way as to comply with the stringent criteria of the ECB and become the banking group leader. Meanwhile, one of the objectives of the entrepreneur’s successors, if he will follow his steps, could be the shareholders’ meeting of 2023, when the investment bank will have to renew the board of directors. A difficult game, however, given that Mediobanca’s management enjoys the support of the market, which holds about 50% of the capital.