Capital Markets

Hedge Funds Get Big Changes at Motorola, Ceridian

Activist pressure may have been a factor in large layoffs and a sale of the company, respectively.
Stephen TaubMay 31, 2007

Two major companies currently under pressure from activist hedge fund managers made major announcements on Wednesday of events aimed at enriching their investors.

Motorola, which has been fielding demands from billionaire Carl Icahn, announced it would lay off 4,000 people, saving the company $600 million in what is a new round of cost-cutting.

The cell-phone maker also pointed out that it is on target to achieve the $400 million in annualized cost savings that it announced in January and that its previously announced workforce reduction of 3,500 will be completed by June 30. “We are confident that the steps we are announcing today, together with the actions that we have outlined previously, will further improve the company’s financial and operational performance and create value for our stockholders,” said Motorola CFO Tom Meredith.

At Wednesday’s annual meeting, however, Icahn failed in his bid to win a board seat.

Meanwhile, Ceridian, being pushed Pershing Square Capital’s Bill Ackman to introduce major strategy changes, agreed to sell the company to Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P. and Fidelity National Financial, Inc. in an all cash transaction valued at about $5.3 billion.

Pershing Square had planned to nominate its own slate of eight directors at the annual meeting of the outsourcer of human resources services. In recent weeks, Ackman pressured Ceridian to announce a date for the annual meeting.

Further, Breeden Capital Management LLC, officially declared its status as an activist investor in Acco Brands Corp. on Tuesday, reporting that it held a 9.7 percent in the company. When an investor has bought at least five percent of a company’s shares and has an interest in making major changes in the company, it must publicly reveal those facts by filing form 13D with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Last week, shareholders of Applebee’s International elected Richard C. Breeden and his ally Laurence E. Harris to the board of directors at the company’s annual meeting. Breeden, a new force among hedge-fund activists, is a former SEC chairman.

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