Third Point, the hedge fund run by activist investor Daniel Loeb, has upped its stake in US food giant Campbell Soup Co. ahead of the company’s annual meeting at the end of November.
According to a filing sent to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by Campbell, Third Point has increased its stake from 5.65% to 6.98%.
Third Point has been critical of the way New Jersey-based Campbell has been run and is pushing for radical change which may include a sale of the business. To this end, it is attempting to replace the entire 12-strong Campbell board.
The investor has the support of some other shareholders in its attempt to force change at the company but it faces a struggle as descendants of former Campbell president John T. Dorrance – a chemist who invented condensed soup – own a combined 42% stake in the company.
The filing to the SEC revealed three of Third Point’s nominees to Campbell’s board have stakes in the soup giant: Lawrence Karlson, Michael Silverstein and William Toler.
Earlier this month, Third Point demanded access to Campbell’s records, including board meeting minutes and financial documents.
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Campbell has sent a letter to shareholders ahead of its annual meeting on 29 November urging them to back the existing board.
Responding to the latest filing to the SEC revealing Third Point’s increased stake in the company, Campbell criticised Third Point’s nominee selections, including George Strawbridge Jr. who is a descendant of John T. Dorrance. He has disclosed a 2.7% in Campbell and has partnered with Third Point in its campaign.
Campbell said: “Despite criticisms of oversight at Campbell, Third Point nominated George Strawbridge, Jr., who retired from Campbell’s board at the age of 72 in 2009, with a tenure that spanned more than 22 years, and Lawrence Karlson, who served on the board as recently as 2015 and supported many of the acquisitions that Third Point is now criticising.”
Loeb’s scrutiny of Campbell came after the Pepperidge Farm snacks and Prego sauces owner announced in May it would review its business, a move made alongside the departure of president and CEO Denise Morrison after seven years at the helm.
Morrison’s exit came after a third-quarter loss, before interest and taxes, of US$475m and a profit warning. Campbell has also struggled to get its sales growing in the US, while there were questions about its December acquisition of US snacks group Snyder’s-Lance.
The recently announced results of its review saw Campbell reveal it will concentrate on its core products and its domestic market while ditching its fresh food and international arms.