Meme-Stock King Takes Aim at One of China’s Biggest Companies, While Dealmakers Rub Shoulders in Davos

This week, WSJ’s Lauren Thomas reports that entrepreneur turned activist Ryan Cohen, otherwise known as the “meme-stock king” partly responsible for the GameStop stock rally in 2021 that inspired a legion of retail investors, has set his sights on Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. In a rare case of activism targeting a Chinese company, Cohen is calling for an increase in share buybacks and predicts the company could achieve double-digit sales over the next five years. Many are skeptical about his chances of success given China’s significant influence over its companies – Bloomberg’s Katie Roof noted that just this month, a government entity took “golden shares” in an Alibaba entity, which allows the government to nominate directors or sway important company decisions and ensure longer-term control over the sector.

In other activism news, on Tuesday, Emerson Electric engineered a $7 billion hostile takeover bid to acquire National Instruments. Unusual timing for a hostile bid, since just last week National Instruments announced that the company was for sale and simultaneously adopted a poison pill. Bloomberg’s Ed Hammond describes Emerson’s offer as “turning up to a house viewing and kicking in the front door.” National Instruments might need to change its locks as Emerson turned up the heat by launching a website and signaling its intent to nominate directors.

The deal market was a topic of conversation over Swiss wine and fondue this week at Davos, the first WEF since this time three years ago. Goldman Sachs CEO and part-time DJ David Solomon and KPMG CEO Paul Knopp were among those who were cautiously optimistic about a rebound in dealmaking in 2023. Solomon told CNBC’s Becky Quick, Andrew Ross Sorkin and Joe Kernen he thinks there will be more capital markets activity this year once dealmakers are able to wrap their heads around price points, while Knopp explained to Yahoo! Finance’s Brian Sozzi and Julie Hyman why he sees a “pretty strong resurrection” for deals coming in the back half of the year.

Over at the Magic Kingdom, Financial Times’ Anna Nicolaou and Ortenca Aliaj highlight how Disney struck back at Nelson Peltz earlier this week by filing its preliminary proxy and accompanying slides that detailed why the Mouse House believes Peltz isn’t fit to serve on the Board.

Finally, advisory and asset management firm Lazard released its annual year in review for shareholder activism and 2022 did not disappoint. Last year’s 235 executed campaigns reached levels not seen since 2018. The report found a 36% increase in activism activity year over year, while the final quarter of 2022 was the busiest quarter on record for activist funds. With a record breaking year in the books for 2022, one can’t help but wonder what 2023 has in store.  

Have a great weekend,

GPP Team


Wall Street Journal: Activist Investor Ryan Cohen Takes Stake in Alibaba and Pushes for More Stock Buybacks

Lauren Thomas reports that Ryan Cohen, the activist investor known for his involvement in meme stocks such as GameStop, has acquired a stake worth “hundreds of millions” in the Chinese tech giant, pushing the company to engage in more aggressive stock buybacks. Read More

Bloomberg: Emerson Goes Public With $7 Billion National Instruments Bid 

Ed Hammond reports on Emerson Electric’s takeover bid of National Instruments. The bid at $53 per share was delivered last November and made public on Tuesday amidst sweeping strategic reviews at National Instruments. Read More  

KPMG CEO: Deal market to see ‘pretty strong resurrection’ in late 2023

Brian Sozzi and Julie Hyman interview KMPG CEO Paul Knopp on his predictions for the 2023 deal market, his perspective on the broader macroeconomic landscape and the future of AI. Watch Here

Lazard’s Review of Shareholder Activism – 2022

The firm’s annual report examines shareholder activism for FY2022. Data-driven, the report found a 36% increase in activism activity year over year, while 4Q2022 marked the busiest quarter on record for activist funds. Read More


Axios: Word on the [Oak] Street: CVS Isn't Buying

Erin Brodwin and Claire Rychlewski report on the decreasing likelihood of CVS’ acquisition of Oak Street. The erosion of the deal, which valued Oak Street at over $10b including debt, comes amidst CVS’ ongoing issues in its attempt to close its acquisition of Signify Health. Read More

Heard on the Street: Albertsons-Kroger Deal Spooks Merger Pros  

Jinjoo Lee explores how Albertsons’ valuation remains in flux prior to the grocery chain’s acquisition by Kroger. She explores a number of scenarios including Albertsons’ yet-to-be-paid special dividend and Kroger’s potential need to engage in store divestitures in order to gain regulatory approval for the deal. Read More


Bloomberg: Larry Fink Says ESG Narrative Has Become Ugly, Personal

BlackRock’s chief executive, whose outspoken stance on ESG investing has turned the world’s largest asset manager into a “political punching bag,” says that the discourse surrounding the issue is becoming increasingly personal, furthering polarization across the board. Read More

The CLS Blue Sky Blog: When Will Shareholders Vote for Socially Beneficial but Costly ESG Policies?  

This paper, published by professors from the Universities of California at Santa Cruz, Irvine and the University of Stavanger in Norway, examines the phenomenon of shareholder utility as an alternative to conventionally held shareholder value. That is, how do shareholders weigh their investment decisions given their impact on societal good? Read More

Financial Times: Republicans Target Proxy Advisers ISS and Glass Lewis in ESG Backlash

Patrick Temple-West reports on the newest wave of attacks on ESG—this time from 21 Republican state attorneys general—against proxy advisor firms ISS and Glass Lewis. The two firms have been accused of failing to uphold “contractual obligations and legal duties” as they pertain to ESG and director recommendations. Read More

Fortune: Don’t Believe the Podium Talk at Davos–But Capitalism is Really Starting to Change

Beth Thoren, director of environmental action, EMEA, at Patagonia, pens an opinion piece detailing an evolution of capitalism that hinges on reimaging corporate governance and places an emphasis on purpose coexisting alongside returns. Read More


It’s here, folks. The moment you’ve all been waiting for—NYC Restaurant Week is finally upon us. Spanning from January 17-February 12 (more like restaurant month?), the annual tradition offers discounted pricing at eateries across the city, from elevated dining experiences at innovative up-and-comers like Mifune, to more cozy neighborhood favorites like Pasta Louise. Whether you want to put on your most crisp, freshly ironed pair of slacks or gather with a group of friends and sip hot chocolate, there’s no better time to explore the city’s eclectic food scene.


Alongside restaurant week runs Broadway Week, another promotional attraction that sees the city’s best theatrical performances heavily discounted. Dare we say it, dinner and a show?


  • Steve Pagliuca, Co-Chairman of Bain Capital, is set to retire after 34 years with the company. Read More


  • Semafor has hired Timothy McDonnell as Energy and Climate Editor who will oversee the outlet's Net Zero newsletter. Read More


  • Reuters has hired Amy-Jo Crowley to serve as European M&A Correspondent. Read More
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