Amid the turmoil surrounding the group's governance, Essilux has initiated the search for its future chief executive with the appointment of two recruitment agencies, Russell Reynolds Associates and Eric Salmon & Partners. Russell will coordinate the process, which will involve internal and external candidates, with the view of appointing the CEO by the end of 2020.

Asked today, at a conference with investment analysts to review the group's results, whether the appointment is likely to be made sooner, the management declined to comment on the matter, indicating that some information on this may become available with the first annual meeting of EssilorLuxottica in Paris on May 16.

The headhunters were selected by Essilux' nomination and compensation committee after consultation with Del Vecchio and Sagnières. The future CEO will be agreed on and proposed to the board for joint appointment by both the chairman and the vice-chairman and recommended by the nomination and compensation committee.

The selected candidate will initially be appointed as “directeur général délégué” (assistant general manager). He or she will be in charge of coordinating the activities of EssilorLuxottica as a holding company and assisting the chairman and the vice-chairman in integrating Essilor and Luxottica. The manager's powers will be defined by the board based on the joint recommendation of the chairman and vice-chairman. In the meantime, both Luxottica and Essilor will remain separate legal entities running their businesses autonomously and under their own leaderships and CEOs, with certain exceptions.

The appointment of the group CEO is a crucial issue within the company as Del Vecchio already made his choice initially saying in November 2018 that he wanted Francesco Milleri immediately to become the new head of the group. He later watered down his request, saying he wanted to pass his own powers to Milleri.

Milleri is a long-time family friend of Del Vecchio and currently chief executive of Luxottica. In an interview released in December 2018, Del Vecchio said that, considering his own age, he had included in the combination agreement the clause that Milleri would replace him if he were to pass away. Del Vecchio will turn 84 on May 22.

Sources told the Financial Times that Milleri may not have the necessary experience to run the whole group, according to Essilor's management. Instead, they are backing Essilor's current CEO, Laurent Vacherot, or Hubert Sagnières, chairman of Essilor and vice-chairman of the EssilorLuxottica group.