Back to CP Rail proxy fight hits the road as Pershing, CP take their message to shareholders
The shareholder vote over control of Canadian Pacific Railway is still months away, but the two sides are already preparing to woo investors with road shows.
Activist investor Bill Ackman of U.S. hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management will hold a town-hall meeting next Monday at the downtown Toronto Hilton hotel where shareholders can meet him and his picks for the CP board.
Pershing has also hired Navigator Ltd., a high-power government relations and communications firm, to help out as the proxy fight heats up.
Not to be outdone, CP CEO Fred Green announced to employees in a memo late Monday that the board and top executives will be going on the road to meet investors and discuss the progress that’s been made to date in the company’s multi-year plan.
Ackman’s Pershing, which owns 14 per cent, has made it clear that CP Rail could be much more profitable and wants to see a change of management.
He has put forward a slate of five nominees including himself for the 15-member board of directors that will be elected at the May 17 annual meeting in Calgary.
Ackman has said he may add more names, but the goal is not to take over control of the board, but rather force management change.
He has named retired CN executive Hunter Harrison as his pick to replace Green.
The CP board has unanimously backed Green.
CN Rail has filed a lawsuit in Illinois to suspend nearly $40 million in pension and other payments to Harrison, who retired in 2009, over concerns he has breached his noncompete agreement, which expired on Dec. 31.
Harrison, who will also be on hand for Pershing’s town hall, will outline what can be done to turn around CP, whose performance is among the worst of the Big Six railroads in North America.
That plan calls for a focus on increasing volumes, boosting network capacity, and controlling costs.
His slide show presentation posted on the website emphasizes the company has set an operating ratio target of 70 to 72 per cent — which is a measure of efficiency in the railroad industry — by 2014.
Pershing Square has maintained that CP could get to an operating ratio of 65 per cent by 2015.
CP’s operating ratio in 2011 was 81.3 per cent, up from 77.6 per cent in 2010.
To date, Pershing has named five nominees that include Ackman and Pershing partner Paul Hilal.
The three others are Canadians: Anthony Melman, chairman and CEO of Nevele Inc. and formerly managing director of Onex Corp.; Gary Colter, president of CRS Inc., a corporate restructuring, strategic and management consulting company; and Rebecca MacDonald, founder and executive chair of Just Energy Group Inc.