Activist Firm Relational Investors To Shut Down

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The well-known $6 billion activist investment firm Relational Investors plans to dissolve all of its funds and wind down operations by the end of next year, reports The Wall Street Journal. The newspaper cites unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

Relational Investors co-founder fighting cancer

The sources said that the decision to close was made after co-founder Ralph Whitworth learned that his throat cancer had recurred. Whitworth has been Relational’s public face for some time. The firm announced in July that he was taking a leave of absence.

The sources said the firm’s plans are fluid and that Relational executives will decide on the status of the firm’s funds and the positions in them over the next year.

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New firm with same name planned

They also said that Relational Investors executives are planning to begin a new fund with the same name next year. However, neither Whitworth nor fellow co-founder David Batchelder will manage the firm’s day to day operations.

The sources said the new Relational Investors could include a mix of some of the firm’s current investments like Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) and SPX Corporation (NYSE:SPW). Those two stocks are Relational’s biggest positions, according to The Wall Street Journal’s sources.

An answer to Relational Investors’ fate

For almost the last 20 years, Relational has been one of the most prominent and successful activist investing firms. In addition to HP, the firm has also made a market on The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD). Investors have been wondering about the firm’s future since executives announced Whitworth’s leave of absence earlier this year.

Not long after that announcement was made, the firm said it wouldn’t be making any new investments but that it would continue managing its current portfolio under the leadership of Batchelder. Batchelder had previously been planning to start stepping away from his role at Relational Investors, but he suspended that plan and took control instead after Whitworth began his leave of absence.

The firm has reportedly talked about its plans with some of its investors. The Wall Street Journal reports that an internal memo at a public pension fund states that the firm is planning “an orderly liquidation and wind-down of operations” by the end of next year.