William Johnson, on whose head uneasily rests the H J Heinz triple crown of chairman/president/ceo, is unlikely to reach an amicable accommodation with interventionist shareholder Nelson Peltz prior to the company's annual meeting on August 16.
Speaking to the Financial Times, Johnson said: "[In view of] the level of vitriol and negative communication, and the nature of his plan, which we don't think is realistic, it is completely untenable that there will be any kind of settlement."
Peltz, who owns a 5.4% stake in Heinz via his hedge fund Trian Partners, believes he can teach the food giant's management a thing or two, and is attempting to shoehorn himself and a motley crew of four other nominees onto Heinz' board [WAMN: 08-Mar-06].
His backing quartet comprises Trian co-directors Peter May and Edward Garden; Peltz confidante Michael Weinstein; and Australian professional golfer Greg Norman, whose business expertise is limited to the design of golf courses and the touting of sportswear bearing his name.
The annual meeting will vote whether to elect the quintet to Heinz board - a scenario that now appears unlikely in view of the company's upbeat trading statement issued Wednesday. According to Johnson, earnings for the three months ending August 2 will be around 20% up on the same period last year.
Clearly buoyed by the numbers, Johnson said Heinz would not concede even one or two board seats to Trian - let alone five. He would, however, consider recruiting additional "high-quality directors" who could "add skill sets".
In addition to the bullish trading statement for the current quarter, Johnson claims Heinz is on track to meet its fiscal 2007 earnings target of $2.35 per share.
Trian declined to comment on the trading statement.
Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff