NEW YORK (HedgeWorld.com)–Letters impugning corporate executives’ integrity, competence or both are common enough in fights over board control between managements and activist investors.
Now, ValueAct Capital has added another dimension to a campaign it is waging to get representatives elected to the board of Acxiom Corp., a database specialist. ValueAct, a San Francisco-based hybrid between a hedge fund and a private equity manager with $3.5 billion in assets, constructed a web site (www.ChangeAtAcxiom.com) entirely devoted to this confrontation.
The site comes complete with a detailed history of ValueAct’s relationship with Acxiom going back to 2003, voluminous Securities and Exchange Commission filings on the matter and colorful examples of managerial self-dealing.
The fund charges that the majority of Acxiom’s current directors are connected to Chief Executive Charles Morgan through personal and business ties, and Mr. Morgan is using company resources for himself and his family with questionable benefit to the business.
While the firm laid off workers to cut costs, Mr. Morgan, a race car driver, spent more than $7.6 million of Acxiom money to sponsor celebrity NASCAR truck races and a racing team. The team was partly owned by Mr. Morgan and his son until 2004, according to SEC filings.
Acxiom paid a franchise owned by Mr. Morgan’s wife more than $450,000 in fees and donated $30,000 to the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra at a time when she became chair of the orchestra board, according to the web site; another acrimonious issue is Mr. Morgan’s use of company planes.
“The web site we have established makes the need for change loud and clear, and makes equally clear why ValueAct Capital’s board slate is the superior alternative,” said ValueAct Managing Partner Jeff Ubben in a statement.
Under Mr. Morgan’s leadership the company has performed so badly that the share now trades below the level it reached in 1996, the web site pointed out.
ValueAct, already a large stock owner, has announced that if its candidates are elected to the board it will buy additional shares so as to increase its ownership to slightly less than the 20% allowed by an Acxiom poison pill. The ValueAct nominees are Mr. Ubben, Louis Andreozzi and Michael Lawrie.
Contact Bob Keane with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.