DuPont management survives shareholder vote

    Hotel duPont (Brian Drouin/NewsWorks)

    Hotel duPont (Brian Drouin/NewsWorks)

    DuPont management prevailed in a difficult proxy battle over Trian Partners, headed by billionaire shareholder activist Nelson Peltz.

    The final tally was not immediately announced at the annual meeting Wednesday morning that featured a 10-minute speech by Peltz prior to the vote.

    Peltz seemed to play “good cop, bad cop” in praising the loyalty of the Wilmington area to DuPont, while taking management and board members to task.

    During the speech Peltz painted a picture of a fading company that in the 1950s, was the world’s most valuable corporation in terms of stock market value.

    In an apparent response to DuPont management claims that Peltz and company wanted to sell off businesses, slash research and load up the company with debt, Peltz insisted that the interests of DuPont and Trian were closely aligned.

    There was a focus on short term performance in the remarks. Peltz claimed his slate of four board members would help drive the company’s stock price past the $100 mark and also expressed doubt that DuPont would meet its earnings guidance for 2015.

    DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman kept her head down at times as Peltz made his remarks.

    Peltz took credit for cost cutting efforts and pointed out that Trian has a track record of improving companies. He said Trian will not go away and will closely monitor the performance of the board and management going forward.

    Kullman, who has remained steadfast in insisting that Peltz and three other Trian directors not join the board, received a long round of applause after the vote was announced.

    She went on make brief remarks, emphasizing that DuPont is not done in its transformation that includes spinning off its Performance Chemicals business into a company known as Chemours The new spin off will be based in the longtime DuPont general office in downtown Wilmington.

    Perhaps as a signal by Kullman of DuPont’s new course, the shareholder event was held in the company’s new headquarters at its Chestnut Run site just outside of Wilmington.

    The crowd at the meeting appeared to be heavily represented by elderly retirees, some of whom cast their ballots during the meeting. Retirees and employees, who were viewed as the swing vote in the proxy contest, were targeted in multimillion dollar advertising campaigns by both Trian and DuPont.

    The proxy contest was closely watched in corporate America, since DuPont is not typically a target of firms like Trian.

    U.S. Sen.Tom Carper (D-Del.) fully supported the shareholder vote in a statement, “DuPont has been a Delaware company for centuries, and today’s news is a win for its leadership team, the people who work there, and for the First State. The shareholders have endorsed Ellen Kullman’s vision, and deservedly so.”

    DuPont’s stock performance has been strong under Kullman, who has drawn praise for her attention to the interest of shareholders, even before Peltz and Trian came on the scene and purchased a three percent stake in the company.

    Delaware Governor Jack Markell also commented on the proxy results, “Delaware and DuPont have been partners in advancing science and improving lives for 200 years, and following today’s victory for DuPont’s leadership, I look forward to continuing to work with them to ensure our state is doing all we can to support good jobs and a stronger Delaware.”

    Kullman and other DuPont management members reportedly met with Peltz and Trian many times, at one point holding out prospects of allowing one Trian nominee to join the board. Notably, Peltz himself insisted on joining the board – a suggestion Kullman emphatically rejected.

     

     

    Doug Rainey is the editor of the Delaware Business Daily. He has reported on Delaware business for 25 years. Email Doug at drainey@delawarebusinessdaily.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Follow Doug on twitter: https://twitter.com/DougRaineyDE

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