Peltz Offers Peace Pipe to Heinz Honcho

28 July 2006

Is this the start of an unexpected love-in between interventionist shareholder Nelson Peltz and William R Johnson, the three-for-the-price-of-one chairman/president/ceo of H J Heinz?

Speaking Wednesday to the Financial Times, Peltz (who may have been watching too many re-runs of Wagon Train) declared: "Am I willing to give it a shot with Johnson? Absolutely. You smoke the peace pipe, everybody settles down and understands we have one thing to do: increase shareholder value."

Johnson, however, will be aware that smoking can be dangerous to your health. And more so in the company of Peltz, who is currently demanding a seat on the Heinz board plus four more for his business buddies.

However, Peltz insists he has no intention of trying to oust Johnson from his triple seat. Yet.

"It would not be right for us to be surreptitiously talking to headhunters," he averred.

But if he and his four colleagues - of whom one is Australian professional golfer Greg Norman - are elected to the Heinz board at the company's annual meeting on August 16, they will pressurize the the foods giant to cut costs more aggressively and switch more of its retailer discounts budget to marketing.

Despite Peltz's apparent peace overture, onlooker believe it highly unlikely either side will move from its entrenched position prior to the annual meeting.

Johnson last week said a settlement would be "untenable", while Peltz remains unwilling to negotiate his "all or nothing" demand for five boardroom seats.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff