Pershing Square Introduces Nominees to Target Shareholders
May 18, 2009,
Last week, Pershing Square founder Bill Ackman outlined for Target shareholders why he thought five board nominees put forward by the private equity firm represent better choices than Target's sitting directors now up for re-election.
The group assembled at the AXA Equitable center here last week to field live questions from shareholders in the auditorium as well as those watching a web cast of the meeting.
The tone throughout was cordial, with Ackman several times praising Target's management team.
Accused by Target of seeking a quick profit through a REIT deal the company has rejected, Ackman sought to distinguish himself from fellow activist investor Carl Icahn. "This is not a case where our plan is to sell Yahoo to Microsoft," he said. "I didn't seek out nominees to push through a real estate agenda."
Ashner is the only nominee he has known for any length of time, he added. He also urged shareholders who might be skeptical of his motives to give the nominees a fair look. "You can be supportive of management and still support bringing fresh perspective to the board," he said.
Target's current board lacks members with adequate expertise in grocery, credit cards and real estate, according to Ackman. He also believes the board was mistaken not to pursue the grocery business earlier and was wrong not to transfer risk in its credit card portfolio to an outside party last year.
Three of the four Target board members have been on the board more than a decade, he said.
The four Target board members in question are Mary Dillon, exp and global chief marketing officer of McDonald's; Richard Kovacevich, chairman of Wells Fargo; Solomon Trujillo, ceo of Australian telecommunications company Telstra Corporation; and George Tamke, president of private investment firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice.
"This proxy contest is about who's best to serve on the board," said Ackman, adding that it also would send a message to corporate America not to keep re-electing the same board members cycle after cycle.
Target sent its own message to shareholders in the form of "Questions That Attendees May Want to Ask at the Pershing Square Town Hall."
The piece accused Pershing Square of cherry-picking data to draw unflattering comparisons between Wal-Mart's performance and its own. It asserted Borders Group's share price has plummeted 73% since it accepted a Pershing appointee on the board in January 2008. The retailer again suggested Pershing's greater interest lies in "risky" maneuvers such as the firm's REIT proposal rather than the Target's long-term growth.
Target's shareholder meeting will take place May 28 at a soon-to-open store in Waukesha, Wis. This is the fourth year Target has held the annual meeting in such a setting.