Heinz Annual Meeting Sanctions Seats for Peltz

17 August 2006

Activist investor Nelson Peltz gained one or more seats on the H J Heinz board at the company's annual meeting in Pittsburgh on Wednesday - despite the opposition of chairman/president/ceo William R Johnson and his board.

With 330 million shares held by some 200,000 shareholders, the official results of the vote won't be available for about a month and the extent of Peltz' victory is uncertain. He seeks five directorships for himself and his nominees and appears to have won at least two seats based on an estimate of known votes.

Meantime, both sides are claiming success. "It's a great victory for all the Heinz shareholders, Peltz professed. "This company needed this desperately."

While in the blue corner: "The fact that shareholders rejected the bloc of five suggests there's support for the Heinz [turnround] plan," claimed Heinz' chief administrative officer Ted Smyth.

There was little doubt as to which side was favored by meeting attendees. According to the New York Times, the audience was "clearly a hometown crowd", rooting for the company that has called Pittsburgh home for 137 years.

Following a speech by Peltz trumpeting the successes of his investment vehicle Trian Group, the crowd applauded mildly and courteously.

But when Heinz's presiding director Thomas J Usher assured the packed hall that that "Heinz is not broken" and was "in fighting shape", there was a roar of applause.

This, however, was a mere curtain-raiser for the ovation accorded to retired accountant and Heinz shareholder Mervin Berkman (72), who in fine rabble-rousing form declaimed: "I don't want the Trian people coming in from out of state. This isn't Campbell's Soup. This is Pittsburgh."

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff