By August 29, 2016 Read More →

Williams Cos names 3 directors amid fight with activist Corvex

Williams Cos

Williams Cos is battling with Corvex Management to replace off of the company’s directors.

Scott Sheffield, William Spence, Stephen Berstrom appointed to Williams Cos board

By Michael Erman and Michael Flaherty

NEW YORK, Aug 29 (Reuters) – Pipeline company Williams Cos Inc added three new directors to its board on Monday as it works to fend off an attempt by activist hedge fund Corvex Management to replace all of the company’s directors.

Williams said on Monday it appointed Pioneer Natural Resources Co CEO Scott Sheffield, PPL Corp CEO William Spence and former American Midstream Partners CEO Stephen Bergstrom as directors, effective immediately, increasing the size of its board to 10 directors.

Corvex, run by Carl Icahn protege Keith Meister, nominated a slate of 10 directors last week, after assailing the quality of Williams’ current directors. Meister was previously a Williams director, but resigned in June, along with five other directors, after failing to oust Williams CEO Alan Armstrong.

The resignations came after the collapse of Williams’ more than $20 billion agreement to be sold to Energy Transfer Equity LP – a deal that Corvex had backed.

Meister promised at the time of the collapse that he would continue to pressure the company, despite no longer being on the board. Corvex is Williams’ fourth-largest shareholder.

Last week, Meister announced his plan to replace Williams’ board, just days ahead of last Thursday’s director nomination deadline for the Nov. 23 annual shareholder meeting.

In a move to meet that deadline, Meister nominated 10 of his employees as placeholder directors, who will then resign if elected, to be replaced by a slate of directors made up of industry veterans that he recruits ahead of the meeting.

Meister declined to comment on Williams’ new directors.

“To be determined is whether the group announced today will meet Corvex’s approval and can thus lighten the hedge fund’s own recruitment burden,” said Don Bilson, head of event-driven research at Gordon Haskett.

Williams had announced its plan to name new directors to its board before Meister said he would campaign to have the company’s board replaced.

(Reporting by Michael Erman Editing by W Simon)

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