Like corporate governance, wellness is a pretty fuzzy concept. The idea seems to be that long-term health is best served by people doing the things they enjoy.
Nestlé, a long-time champion of wellness, has recently taken a similar approach to running its affairs. Like a child caught raiding the candy jar, Peter Brabeck, chief executive, has lashed out at investors who dared to question his plan to be chairman too.
The food company has a point. Strict guidelines can get in the way of finding the best person. But it is worth recalling the Swiss precedents that earned the practice of combining the posts a bad name Zurich Financial, Credit Suisse and Swiss Air. Nestlé's claims in the run-up to Thursday's shareholder meeting that there is no-one capable of replacing Mr Brabeck as CEO are a damning indictment of its ability to groom a successor. It is also unclear why this should prevent Nestlé from hiring an outside chairman.
Nestlé is a large, public company, which places some pretty outrageous restrictions on shareholder voting rights. It needs a strong, independent chairman more than most. Mr Brabeck has his merits, but his extravagant acquisitions hardly suggest he will be a tough enforcer of shareholder value as chairman when he eventually steps down as CEO. His hollow victory at yesterday's meeting, together with the scant regard for their views in recent weeks, leaves investors little choice but to vote with their feet instead.
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