Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Activist Investors Show Up at More CEOs’ Doors

An increasing number of corporate chiefs are seeing activist investor groups knocking at their doors demanding they do a better job of running the show. Among the targets are Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Zoetis CEO Juan Ramon Alaix.

Visitation by activist shareholders has to be taken as seriously by today’s CEOs as it was back in the 1980s, during the days of corporate raiders such as Boone Pickens and Carl Icahn—perhaps even more so. The continuing, prolonged period of economic weakness and uncertainty around the world has weakened the results and prospects of many companies, while sweeping changes brought by digital technology, globalization and other trends make them strategically vulnerable.

“Visitation by activist shareholders has to be taken as seriously by today’s CEOs as it was back in the 1980s.”

Meanwhile, investors—even the institutional investors who used to be an incumbent CEO’s best friends—generally are more fickle than ever and thus more willing to give agitated and aggressive fellow shareholders a hearing. And, yes, Carl Icahn is still around—much older, but just as effective. Just ask CEOs who’ve recently been targeted by him, including Apple CEO Tim Cook and Family Dollar CEO Howard Levine.

Right now, Mayer is dealing with Starboard Value LP. The concern about Yahoo by the activist investor group came soon after the spotlight was taken off Darden Restaurants CEO Clarence Otis Jr. He ended up spinning off Red Lobster, overhauling the menu of Olive Garden—and allowing Starboard to take over the company’s board of directors. Starboard has been trying to pressure Yahoo to consider a deal with AOL. And now, at least two top-10 Yahoo shareholders have indicated that they are so unhappy with how Mayer has been failing to turn around Yahoo that they have made a direct plea to AOL CEO Tim Armstrong to explore a merger and run the combined company.

Alaix is dealing with Bill Ackman, head of Pershing Square Capital Management, who lately has greatly influenced strategies and execution at companies including Procter & Gamble, J.C. Penney and Herbalife. Zoetis, the former animal-healthcare arm of Pfizer, has taken a stake in the company—so Alaix can expect Ackman to come calling soon if he hasn’t already.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.