Hedge fund boss – whose daughter tied the knot with Brooklyn Beckham – has a 1.5% stake in Unilever
Unilever’s share price has leaped after the consumer goods company declared that the billionaire activist investor Nelson Peltz is going to join its board.
Peltz, the US founder, and chief executive of Trian Fund Management, has been boosting his Unilever stake since January amid rising speculation that he will pressure the Marmite manufacturer and Dove soap to revamp its sprawling operations, with the firm under mounting pressure to sell off brands or consider a break-up.
His $7.4bn (£5.9bn) investment firm has previously organized activist campaigns at Unilever’s rivals, including Procter & Gamble, Mondelēz, and Heinz. He became a board member of each company but has now renounced those roles.
Peltz made headlines beyond the business sector in April when his daughter, Nicola Peltz, wedded Brooklyn Beckham, the son of David and Victoria Beckham, in an extravagant ceremony at the billionaire’s 27-bedroom Florida mansion, Montsorrel.
Unilever said on May 31 that Trian Fund Management holds 37.4m Unilever shares, or around 1.5% of the company, as it disclosed his appointment as a non-executive director.
Investors reacted positively and shares in Unilever climbed by more than 7 percentage points to £37.45 in early trading, making it the largest riser on the FTSE 100. This boosted the company’s share price from a five-year low in March.
In April, the asset manager AllianceBernstein requested a root and branch restructuring. The AllianceBernstein analyst Bruno Monteyne said Unilever should be divided into smaller, “more cohesive” businesses, such as food, homecare, and beauty and personal care.
Peltz’s investment has intensified the pressure on chief executive, Alan Jope. The company has been criticized after years of weak returns for shareholders: the company’s share price did not profit from the stock market upturn during the recovery from Covid lockdowns.
It faced another hit in January – shortly before Peltz disclosed his stake – when the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline rejected a £50bn approach for its rival consumer health products arm, instead opting to continue with a spin-out listing on the London Stock Exchange.
Peltz will also sit on Unilever’s compensation committee when his appointment becomes official on July 20, allowing him a direct say on directors’ pay, including Jope’s.
Peltz inherited his family’s food business, which he joined in 1963, expanding it and investing in a string of companies including a packaging maker to the Snapple drinks brand along with General Electric, PepsiCo, and the British investment firm Janus Henderson. He is chairman of the fast-food chain Wendy’s.
He has also used his wealth (estimated at $1.6bn by Forbes) to take part in politics and was a Donald Trump supporter, organizing a fundraising dinner for his 2021 presidential re-election campaign at Montsorrel where tickets went for more than $580,000 a pair, according to the Washington Post.
However, Peltz said he was “sorry” for electing Trump after the January 6 riot in Capitol Hill by the former president’s supporters in 2021.
In April, he was reported to have held a fundraising event at his Florida home for Joe Manchin, the conservative Democratic senator who obstructed President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better domestic spending plan.
In a statement provided by Unilever, Peltz said:
“We believe [Unilever] is a company with significant potential, through leveraging its portfolio of strong consumer brands and its geographical footprint.”
“Trian has made a considerable investment in Unilever. We look forward to working collaboratively with management and the board to help drive Unilever’s strategy, operations, sustainability, and shareholder value for the benefit of all stakeholders.”