Activist Holder Says Warren Buffett May Support Taking Coca-Cola Private
A well-known activist investor suggested that Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) might be taken private and that the notion might garner support from nine percent shareholder Warren Buffett.
David Winters, an activist investor who recently tangled with Coca-Cola directors and Buffett over the company's executive compensation plan, made the comments Tuesday on Fox Business Network, where he is a frequent guest.
Buffett, however, squashed the idea, later telling CNBC that there's "absolutely no chance of that."
Back And Forth
Recently, Winters complained that Coke's senior management was "reaping outsized rewards" and that despite less than half of company shareholders approving of its compensation plan, "not a single director voted against it."
Winters made the complaint in a letter to Coke management and Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway holds a 9.1 percent stake in Coca-Cola, or 400 million shares.
Winters owns about 2.5 million Coke shares and is also a holder in Berkshire Hathaway through his Wintergreen Funds.
Buffett "disapproved of the plan, but did not want to speak out," said Winters. "This indicates major corporate governance issues, both at Coca-Cola and Berkshire Hathaway."
Buffett abstained. "I love the company I love the directors and I didn't want to vote no. It's kind of unamerican to vote no," Buffett told CNBC in April, adding that he disapproved of the plan.
Winters calculated that Coca-Cola's current compensation plan will award $13 billion in stock to senior managers over the next four years.
Wall Street appeared to shrug off the kerfuffle. After spiking briefly in pre-market trading, Coca-Cola was changing hands recently at $40.74 a share, up 0.20 percent.
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