What do The Walt Disney Company, BlackRock and a Defense Attorney Have in Common? Published by Kimberly Simpson
Mel Lagomasino, director of The Walt Disney Company and The Coca-Cola Company, Jordie Olivella, a member of the Latin America Offshore Wealth team within BlackRock, and Keith Gottfried, an activism defense attorney from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP in Washington, D.C., shared insights on shareholder activism at NACD Florida’s season wrap-up event in Ft. Lauderdale. Moderated by NACD Florida Board member and director of HEICO Corporation, Julie Neitzel, the wide-ranging discussion highlighted key takeaways for directors:
Change Has Been Revolutionary
Neitzel shared that the first shareholder activist fight on record dates back to the late 1920’s. The activist won, and went on to become a mentor to Warren Buffett. Buffett now owns ten percent of the stock of The Coca-Cola Company, where Lagomasino serves as a director.
Lagomasino started her board service at age 36, more than 30 years ago. In that time, she has served on many boards, including the boards of Global Crossing (as an Audit Committee Member) and Avon. Also during that time, the rise of shareholder activism has been unbelievable – “not evolutionary, but revolutionary”.
Today, says Lagomasino, “If you’re on a board, think like an activist inside. How would you attack the company?” Such a discussion should be on the annual board agenda.
She shared that the real challenge when serving on a collegial board of a company – one where you like the CEO and management – is to remember that you are there to hold management accountable on behalf of the shareholders. “You must be willing to upset management and even lose your own board seat if necessary,” she added. “We can’t have strong capital markets if we don’t have strong governance.”
Click here for a complete summary of the event.