“Any suggestion that Luigi Gubitosi may be joining RCS is wholly without foundation,” Bank of America spokesman John McIvor said in an e-mailed statement today.
Gubitosi and Pietro Scott Jovane, head of Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)’s Italian unit, are frontrunners to become chief executive officer of RCS, a person with knowledge of the matter said earlier today, declining to be identified as the matter is private. Microsoft spokesman Peter Wootton declined to comment.
The board of RCS, the publisher of Italy’s largest daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, will meet May 14 to appoint the new CEO, said the person. RCS, based in Milan, is controlled by a group of investors including carmaker Fiat SpA (F) and Mediobanca SpA (MB), which have pooled shares in a voting syndicate that owns about 58 percent of the publisher, according to market regulator Consob.
Fiat and Mediobanca backed by Intesa Sanpaolo SpA (ISP) Chairman Giovanni Bazoli and investor Giuseppe Rotelli pushed to reform the company’s governance, the person said. All the investors in the shareholder group agreed on the new governance arrangement, the person said.
The group agreed April 4 to reduce the board to 12 members from the current 21 as Fiat Chairman John Elkann and Mediobanca asked for a smaller number of directors, with a majority of independent members, the person said. The candidates proposed before a shareholder meeting tomorrow include UniCredit SpA (UCG) chairman-designate Giuseppe Vita, who’s also chairman of the supervisory board of Axel Springer AG (SPR), Europe’s largest newspaper publisher.
“It’s a step in the right direction and it was about time to do it,” Arturo Albano, managing director at Talete Corporate Governance Consulting, said in an interview. “Having directors who are not just the expression of the controlling investors but have expertise and can give a contribution to the business is very important.”
Outgoing CEO Antonello Perricone was named chief in 2006. Under Perricone, RCS increased its presence in Spain, where it bought Recoletos Grupo de Comunicacion SA, now called Unidad Editorial, to gain the country’s biggest sports and financial newspapers, Marca and Expansion. RCS already controlled the publisher of El Mundo, Spain’s second-biggest general news daily after El Pais.
RCS had a net loss of 322 million euros ($426 million) for 2011 compared with profit of 7.2 million euros a year earlier, it said March 16, citing continuing signs of recession in Spain and Italy and the sovereign debt crisis, which it said will also weigh on 2012 earnings.
Italian businessman Rotelli bought an additional stake in the publisher last month, becoming its biggest individual investor. Rotelli said April 6 that his Pandette Srl company agreed to buy 5.2 percent of RCS for 53.7 million euros from Partecipazioni Editoriali Srl, giving him control of about 17 percent of the voting rights. The sale will take place after the shareholder meeting of RCS and is subject to approval from Partecipazioni Editoriali’s lenders.
Rotelli will be appointed as vice chairman of the group at tomorrow’s annual general meeting, the person said.
RCS stock has halved in value in the past year to 66.2 cents, giving the publisher a market value of 497 million euros.