P&G chief faces up to activist investor Ackman

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Investor william ackman Corporate governance

Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald has met with activist investor William Ackman, head of Pershing Square Capital Management, to be confronted with a 75-page document listing a range of complaints about his leadership.

Ackman claims that P&G’s poor financial results have eroded investor confidence and led to low staff moral at the company, a report in the Wall Street Journal quotes sources close to the executive board as saying.

The report states that on September 4th Ackman faced up to McDonald and two other P&G board members - Boeing chief executive James McNerney and American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault – in a 90 minute meeting which clearly delivered the message that a new CEO should be found.

Ackman holds a small stake, but still has clout

Back in July it was revealed that Ackman had made a significant investment in P&G through his hedge fund company Pershing Square, without detailing the extent of the stake.

The total value of the investment was the purchase of $1.8bn in P&G stock, together with some unspecified options, a stake that is estimated to be less than 1 per cent of the total business.

Following the initial announcement of the investment there was much speculation about the future of McDonald, but the P&G executive board responded the week after the news broke about the investment to state that it would stick by its leader.

P&G board continues to stick by its chief

In view of the fact that the face-to-face and evidently hostile meeting between Ackman, McDonald and the other boardmembers of the executive board, it seems that the consensus amongst the P&G has still not changed, but many market experts are now asking how long this stand-off can last.

Ackman has established himself as an activist shareholder in the last ten years or so, targeting large , mainly blue chip companies, which have previously included Canadian Pacific Railway and Target, which are suffering from struggling financials or ill-defined business strategies.


With respect to his latest investment, Ackman’s arrival on the scene comes as P&G has been delivering increasingly compromised financial results. The most recent second quarter results showed that sales growth had slowed to 4 percent, giving total group sales of $21.35bn.

However, net earnings took a big tumble, falling 49 percent to $1.71bn, compared to $3.36bn in the corresponding quarter last year. For the full six months, this figure fell by 26 percent to $4.77bn.

In response to the falling profits, the company announced a restructuring program that shifts the investment focus away from the emerging markets in an effort to plug the growing gap that is appearing in its performance in developed markets.

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