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Ex-Campari CEO fined €50,000 over Grand Marnier acquisition leak

The former CEO of Italian spirits group Campari has been fined €50,000 by French financial regulators in an insider trading scandal.

Marco Perelli-Cippo stepped down as Campari CEO in 2004 but remained a board member until 2016. He was fined by the Autorité des Marchés Financiers’ enforcement committee for telling a friend over dinner that the company was about to announce a deal to buy French group Grand Marnier in 2016.

Perelli-Cippo’s friend, Davide Blei, bought shares in Grand Marnier on the back of this, and made €34,000 when the deal was announced. The watchdog has issued Blei with a €100,000 fine.

A lawyer for Blei, told Bloomberg that his client is “astounded” by the ruling and is likely to appeal his fine.

“We are astounded by such a lack of critical thinking and such indiscriminate application of the body of clues method which poses real legal problems,” he told the publication. A lawyer for Perelli-Cippo did not respond to a request for comment.

Gruppo Campari agreed to buy French-based spirits producer Société des Produits Marnier Lapostolle (SPML), the makers of Grand Marnier, for €684 million ($760m) as part of a “friendly takeover” in March 2016.

In the decision, the AMF noted that the dinner between Perelli-Cippo and Blei took place on the same day as a Campari board meeting. Blei then opened a securities account the following day, which led to his acquiring €50,000 of SPML shares later that week.

The AMF said in September it was seeking to fine Blei €120,000 and Perelli-Cippo €60,000.

The regulator, according to French law, can build cases by relying on consistent clues if they show that only someone who has inside information would have entered into transactions like buying and selling shares.

Three others were also fined by the AMF, including a former Moët-Hennessy employee, a drinks analyst, and a relative of the Marnier-Lapostolle family. The analyst, Michael Aubourg, may also appeal the decision, according to his lawyer.

Campari has not yet responded to our request for comment.

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