Activists Act Like Alpha Dogs but Don’t Generate Alpha, Data Show 

All bark and no bite. At least that’s the takeaway from Lazard’s latest shareholder activism report that looked at activist returns since 2018 among U.S. companies with market caps over $500 million. The long and short of it: initial share price gains in response to activist engagements are mostly short-lived – the median S&P outperformance of target companies’ shares is only 5 days. There are just a few activists that have managed to sustain “market-beating performance” in the first year following a campaign launch. 

The category defined as “Leading Activist Hedge Funds,” which Bloomberg’s Crystal Tse explains includes the “dozen or so most-prolific firms” on Wall Street, had the best track record of outperforming the broader market. A key learning for corporates stemming from the report: “management teams and boards should be confident challenging the notion that activism is categorized as ‘always good’ for the public shareholder.” Evidently, activists aren’t always right. 


Proxy season might be over, but that doesn’t mean activists are hibernating in the off-season. Across the pond, Sky News reported that the UK-based Sparta Capital, founded by former Elliott Management executive Franck Tuil, has built a large stake in London-listed footwear brand Dr Martens. According to Sky’s report, Sparta, now a top ten shareholder, has been engaging with the board on the back of disappointing stock price performance in the two and a half years since the shoemaker’s IPO. Reuters cites “waning demand in the U.S.” as one pressure that the company has been grappling with. This comes as the retail sector seems to have flown under activists’ radars in the first half of the year, with only 2% of campaigns occurring in the retail sector (three total), according to Barclays H1 2023 Review of Shareholder Activism.

Lastly, is E.S.G officially O.U.T? According to DealBook, a survey just out from the Conference Board revealed many companies are changing the way they talk about ESG publicly for fear of backlash – all in the wake of BlackRock and Larry Fink’s changing tide on the term, as well as the rise in anti-E.S.G. proposals. These types of initiatives have also lost steam on the ballot, with only 2.4% of corporate ballot measures relating to environmental or social goals receiving majority shareholder votes this year, according to Diligent Market Intelligence. 

Have a great weekend,

GPP Team


Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance: Do Activists Beat the Market? 

In their Harvard Law School Forum blogpost, Lazard's Marry Ann Deignan (head of Capital Markets Advisory), Rich Thomas and Kathryn Night (Managing Directors) share their research on shareholder activism, indicating that since 2018, "beyond an immediate 'pop'" in share price, most activists are unable to sustain long-term "market-beating" performances. Read More

Bloomberg: Busiest Activists Really Do Beat Peers on Generating Returns  

Crystal Tse offers her takeaways from Lazard's research on shareholder activism, suggesting that the data provides evidence that "not all activists are investment equals." Read More

Sky News: Activist Fund Sparta Builds Stake in Dr Martens After Share Price Slump  

Mark Kleinman reports that Sparta Capital, a British activist firm launched by former Elliott Management exec Frank Tuil, has built a significant stake in Dr Martens, and is likely pressing the footwear company to launch a buyback program. Read More

The New York Times: DealBook: E.S.G. Gets a Rebrand 

The DealBook team looks at the trend of companies increasingly shifting away from openly talking about their ESG initiatives and considers whether the anti-ESG backlash is likely to increase and carry over through next year. Read More


Financial Times: TCW Agrees Deal to Buy Engine No. 1’s ETF Business 

Known primarily for its groundbreaking campaign against ExxonMobil, Engine No.1 has agreed to sell its ETF businesses to asset management giant TCW Group. The acquisition will create TCW’s first wholly--owned ETF fund. Read More

Institutional Investor: Activists Are Targeting Diverse Boards — And Succeeding 

For all the positives board diversity brings—i.e., differentiated opinions and managerial approaches and a breadth of operational expertise—a new study by Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business indicates it may also sow division. Alicia McElhaney reports that many activist investors are taking aim at diverse boards, claiming that a lack of unison and cohesion make campaigns more successful. Read More

The Deal: Goodyear Signals For M&A With Adviser Retention, Elliott Deal 

After agreeing to add three directors from Eliott to its board, Goodyear has hired a slew of advisors including Lazard, Evercore, Goldman Sachs and Paul Weiss. Ron Orol reports that, when taken in concert with Elliot’s successful campaign, it looks increasingly likely that the tire manufacturer may be gearing up for divestitures of non-core assets or even exploring an outright sale of the company. Read More

M&A & IPOs

Bloomberg: Birkenstock Owner Plans September IPO at $8 Billion Value 

Swetha Gopinath, Eyk Henning and Ruth David write that Birkenstock's parent company, L Catterton, is seeing a potential September IPO and is a ‘shoe-in’ for an $8 billion initial valuation. Read More

CNBC: Francisco Partners & TPG to Take New Relic Private in $6 Billion All-Cash Deal 

Rohan Goswami reports that nearly a decade after its initial IPO, software company New Relic is being acquired by a coalition of private equity firms. Read More

Financial Times: Cheshire Investment Group Heads for $1.6bn NY Listing with Churchill Capital

CorpAcq, a UK compounder which already posts steady revenue and profit numbers, is set to be taken public by Churchill Capital Corporation VII, as the market for SPACs picks up. Read More


Bloomberg: Women Hold a Third of S&P 500 Boards Seats with Gains in June 

According to new data from Bloomberg, the number of female directors on S&P 500 board seats rose to a record high 33.3%, including a record 41 female CEOs at S&P 500 companies. Read More

Fortune: Companies Are Coming Up Short When It Comes to CFO Succession 

Sheryl Estrada looks at recent trends regarding companies struggling with their CFO succession plans and the increasing importance of developing and identifying CFO successors. Read More


Financial Times: Companies with Good ESG Scores Pollute as Much as Low-Rated Rivals 

Steve Johnson reports on new research findings from the investment service Scientific Beta indicating that in general, companies with higher ESG and sustainability scores pollute the environment at about the same rate as those with lower ratings. Read More


In foodie news, we at GPP are very happy a new brand, Cha Cha Matcha opened up down the street on Madison between 51st and 52nd. Seems like this new matcha and coffee mashup is taking NYC by storm. 

For New Yorkers who want to enjoy a nice drinks and dinner combo now that the heat has broken, the following is a perfect night: Do drinks at Le Rock outside (45 Rock Center), and then dinner at Naro. We started with a sparkling pet-nat and oysters at Le Rock, a French brasserie style restaurant we midtowners have come to cherish (open breakfast, lunch and dinner). Then NARO, sister restaurant of acclaimed Korean breakout Atomix, has an amazing five course tasting menu including a veggie tasting menu if need be (not us). We chose two wines, one a classic French Mersault from Jean-Marc Roulot, a 2019 Vireuils, and the other from beloved Ridge Vineyards high atop the Santa Cruz mountains. We picked the 2020 Geyersville, a blend of mostly Zinfandel, but also Carignane and Petite Syrah, grapes from Alexander Valley. Went perfect with the wagyu beef with black truffles!

Lastly, we’d be remiss not to bid farewell to our amazing 2023 intern class, who delivered a very impressive final presentation this week on how companies should navigate social issues. The work was phenomenal and we’re all very proud of them. From your GPP family, thank you Janelle, Jina, Paris and Rylee and best of luck in your senior year of college! 


  • Paco Ybarra is set to leave his post as Citigroup’s head of investment banking after more than 35 years at the bank. Read More

  • Unilever has appointed British businessman Ian Meakins as its chair. He will replace Nils Andersen in September. Read More

  • The PGA Tour has added Tiger Woods to its board as part of wider changes in governance structure after receiving player pushback over its tumultuous deal with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. Read More
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