MODERN bosses are a resilient bunch who can handle everything from Twitter storms to takeovers. But one thing drives many of them berserk: activist hedge funds, which buy stakes in companies and lobby for change. Last month Klaus Kleinfeld, the boss of Arconic, an industrial firm, succumbed to a bout of “activist apoplexy”. He sent a confidential letter to Paul Singer, head of Elliott Management, a fund that was trying to oust him. Its mysterious references to parties during the 2006 football World Cup in Germany and to a feather headdress seemed to be a threat to expose details about Mr Singer’s personal life. Mr Kleinfeld, who had spent over a decade running big listed firms including Siemens and Alcoa, resigned when his board found out.
Bosses feel that they are being stalked by activists. Elliott is now in a confrontation with Akzo Nobel, a Dutch chemicals firm that is using a poison pill to resist a takeover by PPG, an American rival. Since 2010, on average, 8% of…Continue reading