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Lionel Laurent

Pernod Gets the Gentle Treatment From New York Hedge Fund

Those expecting a fight between Elliott and Pernod Ricard’s CEO may be disappointed. Activist funds can make money from a gentler approach too.

Pernod Ricard is a French national treasure, so billionaire investor Paul Singer is wise to treat it with kid gloves.

Pernod Ricard is a French national treasure, so billionaire investor Paul Singer is wise to treat it with kid gloves.

Photographer: Antoine Antoniol/Bloomberg

Billionaire Paul Singer is often portrayed as every CEO’s worst nightmare. His hedge fund Elliott Management Corp. is known for aggressive activist campaigns that put boardrooms under pressure to make radical changes, or get swept aside.

But his latest European bet, on French liquor-maker Pernod Ricard SA, is different. It’s a more back-seat, common-sense approach that advocates tweaks rather than a structural overhaul. Judging by the recent board changes at the company and the share-price rise, it is working out for Elliott and Pernod’s management. Don’t be surprised if this ends up as more of a sprucing up of the ancien regime than a full-blown revolution.