A power struggle has erupted within Switzerland's largest travel group, Kuoni. Five out of the seven members of the board and the entire management have demanded the immediate resignation of the chairman, Daniel Affolter.This content was published on May 4, 2001 - 13:47
The board is filing criminal charges for "disloyal conduct of business" against Affolter and the board of trustees of the Kuoni and Hugentobler foundation, which is the company's largest shareholder.
The foundation, created in 1957 by Alfred Kuoni, holds 6.25 per cent of Kuoni's capital and 25 per cent of voting rights.
The employment contract with Affolter, with its annual salary of SFr2 million ($1.16 million), has been terminated.
The accusations against Affolter include the illegal payout of roughly SFr12 million to the board of trustees in 2000, with SFr8.1 million of this going to Affolter personally.
Affolter is also accused of arranging for the foundation to pay him an annual payment of SFr1 million until his retirement age (a maximum period of 19 years), in the event that he resigned as Kuoni chairman.
The board said in a statement that the foundation had to obtain a bank loan to finance the distributions.
The board said that the repeated drawings of emoluments amounting to millions of Swiss francs could not be justified on ethical, legal or performance-related grounds.
It added that the board and the executive board were seriously concerned about the fact that the foundation, which practically controls Kuoni, had been entrusted to people who obviously placed their personal interests above those of the company, its staff and shareholders.
Affolter and Alfred Kuoni rejected the allegations at a news conference in Zurich. They said the one-off payments had been made legally for their performance at Kuoni over the years.
They accused the dissident board members of planning an attack on Kuoni's independence and suggested that insiders at Kuoni could be helping an outside company to take over the travel group.
Kuoni in March announced record financial figures for the year 2000. Turnover increased by 17 per cent to SFr4.1 billion while the operating profit rose by 14.3 per cent to SFr174.7 million. Ordinary group profit amounted to SFr115.1 million.
swissinfo with agencies
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