Whitworth’s Firm Discloses 3.5% Stake in B/E Aerospace

Ralph Whitworth, the activist investor who co-founded Relational Investors LLC, disclosed that his money-management firm acquired a 3.5 percent stake in B/E Aerospace Inc., the maker of jet seats that is considering putting itself up for sale.

Relational Investors added 3.65 million B/E Aerospace shares in the quarter ended March 31, according to a regulatory filing today by the San Diego-based firm with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Relational, co-founded by Whitworth and David Batchelder, didn’t report holding any B/E Aerospace shares as of Dec. 31.

B/E Aerospace surprised analysts by announcing on May 4 that the company had hired financial and legal advisers to consider a sale. As recently as April, the Wellington, Florida-based manufacturer said it was considering making two acquisitions of its own.

Relational’s Whitworth and Amin Khoury, the chairman and chief executive officer of B/E, didn’t immediately return return telephone calls seeking comment.

Relational’s stake in B/E had a market value of $316.8 million as of March 31, according to the SEC filing. B/E shares have jumped almost 10 percent this month, helping to push the value of Relational’s holdings to about $352 million, assuming the number of shares held hasn’t changed.

Institutional money managers who oversee more than $100 million of equity-related securities traded on U.S. exchanges must file a Form 13F within 45 days of the end of each quarter. The form discloses their holdings in stocks, options and convertible bonds on the last day of each quarter.

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