Economics

A Recap Of Activist Campaigns In 2017

Landmark moment

If there is one thing 2017 will be remembered for, it’s Nelson Peltz’s breakthrough moment at Procter & Gamble. The Trian Fund Management founder launched a proxy fight at the consumer products giant, the largest company to face a contest. When P&G released the vote’s preliminary results, indicating Peltz lost the fight by a 0.2% margin, the veteran activist didn’t surrender. Peltz fought for a recount, claimed the new results showed he won by an even slimmer gap of 0.002%, and pressured P&G to seat him on its board. Ultimately the juggernaut caved and appointed Peltz to its extended 12-person board in December. If that isn’t a landmark moment, what is?

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Biggest surprise

Most were surprised to learn in March that Jeff Ubben had decided to step down as investment manager of ValueAct, having told an audience at Reuters’ Newsmaker event that he planned to stay involved in the firm’s daily operations for at least a few more years. The firm’s co-founder relinquished his role as chief investment officer to longtime partner Mason Morfit in July, saying he was making good on a promise he made a decade ago.

Weirdest moment

Elliott Management’s campaign to oust the chief executive of industrial goods company Arconic had its fair share of twists and turns. None were as outlandish as then-CEO Klaus Kleinfeld’s unauthorized letter to Elliott’s founder Paul Singer. The cryptic note referenced “legendary” stories about Singer’s behavior in Germany during the 2006 soccer world cup (think Native American feather headdress, ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ showtunes, and a fountain). After Elliott published the letter, Arconic’s board said Kleinfeld had shown “poor judgement,” prompting his forced resignation.

Notable quote

Opinion is divided on whether Carlos Rodriguez was right to celebrate his proxy contest victory over Pershing Square Capital Management, but the Automatic Data Processing CEO certainly spoke to the nature of the campaign when he said:

“Bill…despite your characterization of the result as close, what I was told was this was an ‘a$$-whipping.’”

Overseas campaign of the year

With plenty of notable situations to choose from, the ferocity of Elliott Management’s effort to push AkzoNobel to sell itself to American rival PPG stood out as forcing Dutch courts, and ultimately the Dutch government, to consider how far shareholders should be able to pressure governments. A host of changes followed AkzoNobel’s rejection of PPG’s offer but going into 2018, Elliott is still there.

Article by Activist Insight