David Winters discusses issues at The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO), why he isn’t selling Coke’s stock, and why he’s bullish on the Asian consumer, in the Barron’s article, “How a Hands-On Investor Went Flat on Coke” by Sarah Max.
This isn’t your first foray as shareholder activist.
Over the years there have been a number of them. We don’t choose to be activists just to be activists. We find ourselves in a situation where we have to.
Several years ago, you took a similar (though less public) stance against Consolidated-Tomoka Land [CTO], which you still own. How did that play out?
Consolidated-Tomoka is an old company that owns about 11,000 acres of land near Daytona Beach, Fla., and has an investment portfolio of triple-net leases [in which the renter pays real estate taxes, insurance, and maintenance fees] around the country. We bought it because we thought it was undervalued; it’s a very conservatively financed company with
modest debt. As time went on, we realized that management was behaving in a way that was increasingly not shareholder-
friendly, including wanting to pay the CEO and chairman of the board based on “hypothetical earnings,” which was something we objected to. The management basically had the same attitude that Coca Cola has had: It’s our company and we’re
going to do what we feel like. We objected to that attitude. We ran two proxy contests and were able to get several independent directors on the board—nobody associated with Wintergreen. The board ultimately decided the then-CEO should no longer be employed by the company, and he was shown the door. The new CEO and his team have done a very good job of cleaning up Consolidated-Tomoka and moving the company forward. The new CEO also bought a whole bunch of stock with his own money, which we always like to see. And they have a compensation plan that makes sense.