Struggles at Procter & Gamble Draw Scrutiny of Nelson Peltz

The filing signals a ratcheting-up in the size of the corporate targets of activist investors, who through behind-the-scenes cajoling or sometimes high-profile public proxy wars try to force companies to change their strategies with an eye toward profits for themselves.

Activist investing has attracted larger and larger pools of money, allowing managers like Mr. Peltz to hunt for ever-bigger corporate game. A proxy fight at Procter & Gamble, which has a market value of nearly $225 billion, would be among the biggest in corporate history.

And Procter & Gamble, based in Cincinnati, is merely the latest consumer-driven company to capture the attention of activist investors.

Last month, Daniel S. Loeb’s hedge fund, Third Point, said he would agitate for changes at Nestlé, and Jana Partners had earlier pressured the retailer Whole Foods to revamp its board. Whole Foods ultimately announced that it would sell itself to Amazon.

This is not the first time that Procter & Gamble has faced activist pressure: The billionaire William A. Ackman pushed the board to oust Robert A. McDonald as chief executive in 2013, prompting Mr. McDonald’s predecessor, Alan G. Lafley, to return to the post from retirement.

Photo

Nelson Peltz in New York in 2013. His investment firm, Trian Fund Management, disclosed a $3.5 billion stake in Procter & Gamble in February.

Credit
Heidi Gutman/CNBC

Companies with mature consumer brands — like Procter & Gamble, with its Tide detergent and Gillette razors — can be ripe targets for activists because their days of surging growth are often well behind them.

While companies may want to keep the brands, enjoying the cash they can generate, activist investors tend to be more aggressive in their approach. They often look for ways to sell the brands and reinvest in new technologies or brands that can generate better growth opportunities, said Damien…

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