The Trian Group, headed by Nelson Peltz, and Heinz are at loggerheads again, with the shareholder group yesterday (22 June) filing a preliminary proxy statement restating its aims for board representation with the food company.
“As Heinz’s second largest shareholder, owning approximately 5.5% of its outstanding shares, the Trian Group is seeking support from all Heinz shareholders to elect its five highly qualified and independent nominees in order to establish strong shareholder representation on Heinz’s board of directors,” a statement from Trian said.
The statement went on to once more set out Trian’s grievances with the current board.
“The Trian Group notes that in the last eight years since William R. Johnson began leading Heinz, management has failed to increase shareholder value and failed to improve Heinz’s financial results despite its numerous restructuring plans. The latest Heinz restructuring plan, announced several days after the Trian Group announced its Action Plan for Heinz, is the sixth in a series of failed major restructuring plans that have been announced since 1997, including one that was announced only nine months ago in September 2005.”
The Trian Group said it believes that the Heinz board’s credibility must be restored now through the addition of new independent directors who will be committed to holding management accountable for the company’s performance going forward.
But a statement from Heinz countered: “There is nothing new of value to shareholders in today’s filing by Nelson Peltz and his Cayman Islands group, which continues to advocate the same plan that would cripple Heinz and to propose the same hand-picked nominees, two of whom, Messrs Peltz and Peter May, have a public and well-documented record of shareholder lawsuits. Nelson Peltz completely ignores the fact that Heinz, following four years of a successful turnaround, already has a realistic, aggressive and widely-accepted plan to deliver superior value and growth over the next two fiscal years and has a strong, assertive and independent board that will hold management accountable for achieving its goals.
“In terms of total shareholder return (TSR), Heinz has outperformed the food industry since launching its “Focus on the Core” strategy on December 20, 2002. Since then, Heinz has delivered 18.9% TSR versus 16.0% for the food group through February 3, 2006.”
The statement added: “It’s clear from Mr Peltz’s track record that he and his hand-picked nominees would pursue a self-interested and divisive agenda at the expense of all other Heinz shareholders. Heinz believes that Mr Peltz and his nominees are pushing an unrealistic plan that would cripple Heinz and disrupt the company’s momentum.”