Mario Greco, CEO of Generali
Generali stated yesterday that "The group CEO has been given the authority to undertake legal proceedings before the employment tribunal, aimed to challenge and contest the settlement agreements reached with Giovanni Perissinotto and Raffaele Agrusti, to cancel the rights granted to Agrusti by the company, to recuperate the amount paid to Perissinotto, and - for both - to claim damages arising from non-performance in the execution of their duties as employees of Generali."
The private equity and hedge fund investments of Perissinoto and Agrusti had been investigated by an internal Generali team, but it concluded that there were no grounds for either legal action or damages.
Perissinotto said in response that he had "served the company with loyalty and dedication for more than 30 years and I'm deeply convinced of the correctness of my work". Agrusti also insisted that he had "acted in the company's interest and within the rules".
Perissinotto had refused to resign, forcing the board to sack him – a move that highlighted the influence of Mediobanca. Perissinotto had originally been co-CEO with Sergio Balbinot, an arrangement that ended with the latter's departure. Perissinotto had also seen off two chairmen – Antoine Bernheim and Cesare Geronzi – in internal battles. After his dismissal Perissinotto claimed that Mediobanca had put its own interests above those of Generali and that it had "obstructed Generali management efforts to diversify risk into new high-growth areas". Part of that "obstruction" had been a hesitancy on the part of investors to back a rights issue, and an equal reluctance for their stake to be diluted if a rights issue took place in which they did not take part. With Generali's solvency ratio down to 133% by the end of March 2012, it was decided that enough was enough, and Perissinotto went.
Mario Greco, an industry veteran with a high reputation and previously head of non-life at Zurich, quickly took a different tack, rationalising the company in some areas – for example the sale of Generali's Mexican interests to Banorte in June 2013 for $857.5m, bringing to €2.2bn the sum raised through disposals since he took charge. Other sales included Generali's US unit to Scor for $920mThe target is to offload €4bn-worth of business by end-2015.
It would now appear that the board has not forgiven or forgotten Perissinotto's aggressive stance both before and after his dismissal, and the men in grey suits who populate many of Italian financial service groups' board have no intention of letting the matter lie quietly.