September 14, 2017 / 5:16 PM / 2 years ago

Brazil's JBS holds off succession talk while CEO requests release: source

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The board of Brazilian meatpacker JBS SA will delay discussing replacement of Chief Executive Wesley Batista while it awaits a ruling on a motion to release him from jail on charges of insider trading, said a person with knowledge of the matter.

Wesley Batista (R), chief executive of JBS S.A., the world's largest beef producer, leaves the Federal Police headquarters to give a testimony in the Federal Court in Sao Paulo, Brazil September 13, 2017. REUTERS/Leonardo Benassatto

Batista’s lawyers filed a habeas corpus request on Thursday, a day after he was arrested for allegedly selling JBS stock (JBSS3.SA) ahead of a plea deal in May, when he and his brother confessed to bribing politicians. That confession hammered the company’s shares.

A federal judge is expected to decide on the motion in coming days, said the person, who requested anonymity. That person and another familiar with the matter said a JBS board meeting on Wednesday did not deliberate about CEO succession plans. The company declined to comment.

JBS shares gained 4 percent on Thursday, their biggest rise in three weeks, as investors bet the case would bolster an effort by state development bank BNDES to overhaul management.

The bank’s investment arm, BNDESPar, which owns 21 percent of JBS, has been pushing for a new CEO with backing from other minority shareholders. It argues that the Batista family, which owns 42 percent of JBS, should not be able to vote on the issue. The dispute was sent to arbitration on Sept. 1.

BNDES President Paulo Rabello de Castro said on Thursday that BNDESPar was pushing to replace two board members. He also tempered his remarks on Wednesday that had spurred speculation the bank could sell its JBS stake.

Batista’s arrest has accelerated questions about the best candidates to take over JBS, which the CEO and his brother built in recent decades from a regional butcher shop into the world’s largest meatpacker.

Two JBS executives are regarded within the company as possible successors to Batista, according to two other people with knowledge of the matter.

One is Gilberto Tomazoni, head of operations, who has been a close lieutenant to Batista since joining JBS in 2013. He previously served as vice-president at the Brazilian unit of Bunge Ltd (BG.N) and chief executive of rival protein powerhouse Sadia until 2009, before a merger creating BRF SA (BRFS3.SA).

Another candidate is JBS Chairman Tarek Farahat, former Procter & Gamble Co (PG.N) head for Latin America. He joined JBS two years ago to lead a push into the processed foods market.

Tomazoni and Farahat declined to comment through JBS press representatives.

Reporting by Tatiana Bautzer; Additional reporting by Aluisio Alves; Editing by Dan Grebler

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