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Activist Peltz to CEOs: We'll work with you

Stock MarketsJan 09, 2018 10:10PM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO - Nelson Peltz founding partner of Trian Fund Management LP. speak at the WSJD Live conference in Laguna Beach, California

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Billionaire investor Nelson Peltz has a message for America's corporate chiefs; when he calls they do not automatically have to fear for their jobs.

Peltz's $13 billion Trian Fund Management is widely regarded as one of the world's most influential activist investment firms, holding board seats at companies from Wendys Co (O:WEN) to General Electric Co (N:GE).

Unlike other activists who often unseat CEOs, Peltz, 75, told Reuters Breakingviews on Tuesday that he prefers to work alongside management in making companies like Bank of New York Mellon Corp (N:BK) and Mondelez International Inc (O:MDLZ), raise sales, cut costs and earn more.

And he worried how rivals' tactics are impacting a sector of the investment world that has attracted newcomers who are eager to cash in on the riches industry veterans like Peltz and Carl Icahn have earned over the last decades.

"The word activist has come to mean a fight, it has come to mean short term," Peltz said, adding "We are really not that concerned about the next quarters numbers because we will be around for the next 28 of them."

In a wide ranging interview, he called the technical aspects of proxy voting "busted", praised President Donald Trump for getting things done, and worried electronic commerce company Inc (O:AMZN) holds too much sway over prices for the goods it sells.

But mostly he sought distinguish Trian by saying that the firm usually sticks around for seven years and brings an ownership mentality to the board room.

Known for writing white papers full of suggestions, Peltz said he wants to work collaboratively with Procter & Gamble Co (N:PG) chief David Taylor where he will join the board in March after a bitter, expensive and long fight for a seat.

"What we do is come with a plan to make a company better. We never come with a plan to throw out the CEO or to embarrass anyone," Peltz said.

This is particularly noteworthy as CEOs at companies including Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc (N:CMG), Buffalo Wild Wings Inc (O:BWLD) and CSX Corp (O:CSX) exited in 2017 amid pressure from activist investors Bill Ackman, Mick McGuire and Paul Hilal.

Peltz criticized how U.S. investors are required to elect boards, worrying about conflicts of interest at proxy advisory firms and how some big shareholders vote. "The proxy plumbing is busted," he said.

Turning to Trump, Peltz praised him for tax reform. "I'm a results-oriented guy and I'm happy with what he's done. The markets have been great."

Activist Peltz to CEOs: We'll work with you

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