Trian Names Former DirecTV, PepsiCo Exec White Advisory Partner

  • Mike White becomes activist firm's fourth advisory partner
  • White drawn to strategy and operations opportunity at Trian

Trian Fund Management added former DirecTV and PepsiCo Inc. executive Michael D. White as an advisory partner -- the fourth member of a senior group that supports the activist shareholder in its investments, including as potential company directors.

White, 64, retired last year as chairman and chief executive officer of DirecTV after completing the satellite-TV provider’s sale to AT&T Inc. In his previous 20-year career, White rose to CEO of PepsiCo International and vice chairman of parent PepsiCo -- the soda and snacks giant that has counted Trian among its biggest and most outspoken investors since 2013.

White, who left PepsiCo about six years ago, joins Bill Johnson, formerly chairman and CEO of H.J. Heinz Co., Dennis Kass, former chairman and CEO of Jennison Associates, and Dennis Reilley, former chairman and CEO of Praxair Inc., on Trian’s advisory partnership, formed about a year ago.

The advisory partners’ duties include helping identify “potential investment opportunities, assisting with due diligence, formulating strategic and operating initiatives for the companies in which Trian invests, and engaging with public company management teams, boards of directors, shareholders, and external advisers,” the activist fund said in a statement expected to be released Thursday. “We look forward to leveraging Mike’s broad experience across a wide range of industries,” Trian said.

Strategy, Operations

“I wasn’t looking for another CEO role” or another public company directorship, White said Thursday in a phone interview. “I was looking for something where I could sink my teeth into strategy and operations, which is really what my strength is.”

Trian, co-founded by Nelson Peltz, Peter May and Ed Garden in 2005, manages more than $12 billion and has focused its active investments on consumer, industrial and financial companies. Self-described “constructivists,” Trian often targets conglomerates, buying stakes in public companies it considers under-performers, and seeks to work with management and boards to boost shareholder returns.

The investor currently owns big stakes in companies including General Electric Co., Mondelez International Inc., Sysco Corp., DuPont Co., Bank of New York Mellon Corp., Pentair Plc, Legg Mason Inc. and Wendy’s Co.

Trian usually pursues representation on a target company’s board, and last year lost a high-profile proxy fight at DuPont. DuPont subsequently replaced CEO Ellen Kullman with Ed Breen, who quickly struck a deal to merge with Dow Chemical Co.

Board Seats

In nine of Trian’s 11 most recent campaigns, the firm has gotten or sought directorships. PepsiCo added Trian adviser Johnson to its board in March 2015, after resisting the activist’s push to separate its snack and beverage businesses and explore a deal with Mondelez. Kass was elected to Wendy’s board in December and is also a director at Legg Mason -- both companies where Trian is the biggest shareholder.

“This role is kind of like a board-plus,” White said. “You get to actually think like an owner, get in, roll up your sleeves, and start looking at ways to drive shareholder value, whereas a traditional board’s focus is primarily more governance and oversight.”

Trian often collaborates with executives and directors it lobbied in past campaigns for help with future investments, garnering support from track record successes. Earlier notable campaigns have included Kraft Foods Inc., Heinz, Danone, Lazard Ltd., State Street Corp. and Ingersoll-Rand Plc.

“Our goal is to up our game and continue to increase the value add that we
bring to the table when we make a sizable investment in a company,” Trian’s Garden said by phone Thursday. “Mike and the other advisory partners give us insight and help us come up with a thoughtful plan going forward for a business that has struggled historically.”

Before joining PepsiCo in 1990, White was senior vice president and general manager for Avon Products Inc., and worked as a management consultant for Bain & Co. and Arthur Andersen & Co. He’s currently a director at Whirlpool Corp. and Kimberly-Clark Corp.

The Trian partnership grew from the 1970s, when May became chief financial officer of a regional food distributor controlled by Peltz. Over the decades, the pair built a packaging giant, a fast-food restaurant company and a beverage corporation that acquired Snapple and was ultimately sold to Cadbury Schweppes. Garden joined the pair in 2003, and the partners soon pivoted toward shareholder activism.

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