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Other Voices: Boards of Directors at Public Companies - A Tribute to Ralph Whitworth and Gentleman Activism

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Ryan Morris, President at Meson Capital Partners, writes on Harvest Exchange:

The term activist investor is by no means a uniform character, there are as many tactical and personality differences as with the label entrepreneur. While we work to build our own unique approach, there are certain figures whom I greatly admire and who have shaped my thinking. The investing world lost one of those figures in Ralph Whitworth who tragically passed away last month at age 60, succumbing to cancer. Whitworth founded Relational Investors with David Batchelder in 1996, whom I had the pleasure to meet earlier this year. Whitworth was able to drive leadership changes at large cap, highly politicized companies including IBM, Home Depot, Waste Management, and in his final act with Hewlett Packard as Chairman of the Board.

Headlines about highly public activist campaigns over the last couple years have, in my view, led to a great number of pretenders entering the activist arena. Hedge Fund Research (HFR) lists only 71 out of 8,000 funds as activist but of those perhaps only a dozen have leaders that go to the lengths of going into a board leadership role with chairman responsibility as Whitworth did. Leading through tumultuous change and chaos is dramatically more challenging than simply highlighting the failures of management. Business is ha......................

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