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Activist Investors Picking Up Where They Left Off

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Activist Investors Picking Up Where They Left Off

Love them or hate them, activist investors have been making their presence known over the past five years, and it looks like 2015 will be no exception. This week, Trian Fund Management LP, led by activist investor Nelson Peltz, squared up for a standoff with E I Du Pont De Nemours And Co (NYSE: DD). Trian is looking to add four new members to Du Pont’s board, including Peltz himself, after the two argued tirelessly over the past year about the company’s conglomerate structure.

The Du Pont proxy battle is the first to cross the headlines in 2015, but if 2014 was any indication, activist investors and their firms will be making their voices heard in the year to come.

Related Link: Deutsche Bank Values Du Pont Shares At $85 After Nelson Peltz Action

Investors Who Got Their Way In 2014

Carl Icahn picked several fights last year, but his very public spat with eBay Inc (NASDAQ: EBAY) was probably the most memorable. The fight made history as it played out largely on Twitter Inc (NYSE: TWTR), which in turn prompted the SEC to step in with guidance for using social media in proxy fights. Icahn lobbied for the online auction site to spin off its PayPal division, but in the end dropped his case in exchange for his pick of a new board member. Still, Icahn got his wish months later when eBay announced that it was dropping the payment processing division.

Jeff Smith was virtually unknown as an activist investor until he and his firm Starboard Value joined Barrington Capital Management LP in calling for an overhaul for some of Darden Restaurants, Inc.’s (NYSE: DRI) chains. The company responded by splitting from Red Lobster, a move that angered shareholders and led to the removal and replacement of the entire board. Smith has taken over as chairman of the board and Darden’s shares have gained 36.60 percent over the past six months.

Related Link: Starboard Issues Another Letter, Imploring Yahoo

Future Fights To Keep An Eye On

Du Pont isn’t the only company Trian is pressuring for a split. PepsiCo, Inc. (NYSE: PEP) is also on the investment firm’s radar. Back in 2014, the company began calling for Pepsi to split its snack foods and beverages businesses, saying it would increase shareholder value.

Elliot Management began pushing EMC Corporation (NYSE: EMC) to break up last year, something the company has been resisting so far. Elliot Management sent a letter to EMC in October 2014 calling for it to drop VMware, Inc. (NYSE: VMW) and explore new acquisition options.

 

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