BlackRock Tops 2014 Activist-Supporters List, Report Shows

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BlackRock Inc. and the Florida State Board of Administration supported the most activist-investing campaigns last year, according to Activist Insight Ltd.

The two backed ten proxy contests each in 2014, while TIAA-CREF Asset Management supported nine and AllianceBernstein Holding LP eight, according to the London-based research firm.

“Few forces are feared so much on Wall Street as activist investors,” Activist Insight said in a report today. “Yet with many holding less than 10 percent stakes, they frequently rely on the support of other shareholders to get what they want.”

Daniel Loeb’s push to cut costs and boost shareholder value at auction house Sotheby’s was among the campaigns BlackRock sided with, as well as contests targeted at Bob Evans Farms Inc. and Equity Commonwealth, Activist Insight said in the report. The world’s largest asset manager is the third-biggest shareholder in those companies, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Both the Florida State Board and TIAA-CREF backed Starboard Value LP in its battle against Darden Restaurants Inc. The two pension funds also bolstered campaigns versus Bob Evans and The Pantry Inc.

Sotheby’s CEO

Activist investors push management and directors of targeted companies to make changes they believe will boost returns for shareholders. Sotheby’s announced in November that its chief executive officer of 14 years would step down, six months after agreeing to appoint Loeb and two of his candidates to its board of directors.

Activist Insight included 20 activist campaigns in its study, with two contests involving Canadian companies, while the others were directed at U.S. firms.

These are the top 10 shareholders supporting activist-proxy campaigns last year, according to Activist Insight: