Glass, Lewis & Co., the institutional investment advisory company, has backed the appointment of dissident investor Nelson Peltz and one of his other nominees to the board of US food group HJ Heinz Company.
In what must be regarded as a major blow to the Heinz board in its ongoing battle with Peltz and the Trian group, Glass Lewis yesterday (8 Aug) recommended shareholders vote for Peltz and for another Trian nominee Michael Weinstein at the forthcoming AGM.
Glass Lewis said: “We believe the board of directors of Heinz could benefit from the election of certain Trian nominees.” The company also recommended that Heinz shareholders withhold votes from presiding director Thomas J Usher and fellow board member Peter Coors. Heinz not surprisingly said it strongly disagreed with this recommendation.
However, Glass Lewis advised against the election of all five Trian nominees which it said would constitute “a distinct clique with its own agenda”.
The Glass Lewis announcement follows the alignment of various other institutional advisors in the run-up to the Heinz AGM on 16 August. Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has backed the election of three of the five Trian nominees – namely Peltz himself, Weinstein and Greg Norman – while Proxy Governance Inc., has advised shareholders to elect Peltz only.
The Heinz board, which is seeking re-election at the AGM, has itself received backing from Taft-Hartley Advisory Services, Egan-Jones Proxy Services and CtW Investment Group.
But analysts believe the backing of three major proxy advisors for one or more of the Trian nominees means it is likely that Trian, which owns 5.5% of Heinz, will gain some representation on the Heinz board at next week’s meeting.