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Tue Oct 15, 2019, 06:42 PM

Eight corporate jets: What is this, the '80s?

The activist investors are on the tarmac at Emerson Electric Co.

D.E. Shaw Group on Tuesday released a letter calling for the $42 billion industrial company to spin off its climate division and make productivity and corporate-governance improvements, including culling its fleet of eight corporate jets and a helicopter. The public pressure follows reports late last month that D.E. Shaw was seeking a breakup of the company and Emerson’s subsequent announcement that it would review its operations.

In its letter, D.E. Shaw takes issue with the lack of tangible commitments and deadlines for Emerson’s strategic review and stresses that some of its recommendations – such as making all board directors subject to annual elections – shouldn’t require that much deliberation in this day and age.

D.E. Shaw is justified in its wariness of Emerson kicking the can down the road. CEO David Farr has been in his role for 19 years and, according to analysts, he’s signaled he will retire in fiscal 2021 or 2022 and would prefer to leave any decision on a breakup to his successor. RBC analyst Deane Dray speculated earlier this month that a preliminary update on the outcome of Emerson’s strategic review may not come until the company’s annual analyst meeting in February. Emerson is 129 years old and on track to generate $18.5 billion in revenue this year; change doesn’t happen quickly at companies like that. But in a way, that reinforces the activist investor’s argument.


Corporate executives love their perks

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