More often than not, family offices become reluctant activists following extended periods of frustration, where faltering boards fail to listen to their complaints. Occasionally, they provide support to third party activists. But their aims and objectives vary, as illustrated by examples from the Activist Insight database and Family Capital’s own insights.
Nelson Bunker Hunt is renowned for losing much of his oil-based fortune in a failed attempt to corner the silver market in the 1970s.
Greyling Investments, owned by Hunt’s family company, according to regulatory filings, lobbied to change the board of Global Atomic Corporation in 2018, a uranium producer. It later withdrew its candidates, thanking shareholders for their support. Subsequently, the performance of Global Atomic has improved.
Wyllie Group recently forced a new board on Redbank Copper, an Australian resource company. Bill Wyllie made waves as a Hong Kong financier, culminating in his creation of Hutchison Whampoa, now run by billionaire Li Ka-Shing. He died in 2006, leaving stepdaughter Melissa Karlson in charge of his estate. Known as “Dollar” Bill in the UK, Wyllie’s Chinese nickname was the “Smiling Tiger.”
Illinois-based West Family Investments – represents Gary and Mary West, who made their money in the telecom sector – invested in MVC Capital, saying it was seeking ways to maximise shareholder value.
Abernathey Holding, an investment firm run by Andrew Abernathey of North Dakota, has supported criticism of Bristow helicopter group by Global Value Investment Corporation and reiterated demands for changes at the top.
Bala Venkataraman’s Velan Capital, a healthcare specialist, has requested new directors at US-based Progenics Pharmaceuticals, alleging poor management.
Goff Capital, run by billionaire John Goff, has achieved boardroom representation at Contango Oil & Gas of Texas. Goff is renowned as a timely buyer and seller of natural resource stocks and property.
Hawksbill Holdings, run by US-based Christopher Beach, has called for the sale of data engineering company Innodata and the release of a consultant’s findings on the company.
Jamie Nemtsas, through Jamel Trust, and Erling Sorenson of Sorenson Family Trust, have lobbied and regained control of Murray River Organics, a producer of fruit from dried vines. They went on to put it in the hands of associates.
Family-owned PJ Asset Management of Taiwan has demanded a new, enlarged, board at banking group Taishin Financial Holding.
LSP Investment Advisors acting for Gen IV Investment Opportunities, a “family office vehicle” according to filings, has taken a large stake and an activist stance to US-listed Goodrich Petroleum.
Other high profile corporate activism by family offices in the last five years have included:
Wildcat Capital Management, the family office of David Bonderman, the founding partner of the private equity firm TPG Capital, sent a letter to the board of directors of Sorrento Therapeutics in 2016 demanding corporate governance reforms.
Cascade Investment, the family office of Bill and Melinda Gates, moved in 2015 to block members of the founding Burkard family from selling their stake in the Swiss chemical group to competitor Saint-Gobain.