Ashland Investor Nominates Four to Chemical Maker's Board

(Bloomberg) -- Activist investor Cruiser Capital Advisors is nominating four directors to the board of Ashland Global Holdings Inc. to oversee its shift to a pure-play chemical company.

The New York-based investment firm, which holds 2.3 percent of Ashland’s shares, said the nominees would be in a position to help the company address challenges including growing the business, cutting costs and addressing capital allocation and merger and acquisitions needs.

“Cruiser Capital wants to help ensure success by bringing world class executives to the board to support the efforts of Ashland’s transformation from a conglomerated, holding company structure to a stream-lined, pure play, specialty chemical company,” said Chief Investment Officer Keith Rosenbloom said in a letter dated Oct. 23 to Ashland’s board.

Ashland responded that it has held “numerous” talks with Cruiser and will review all candidates before making director nominations ahead of the 2019 annual meeting. Five of the company’s 11 directors joined the board within the past three years, the company said.

“The board regularly takes steps to refresh and strengthen its composition to ensure it has the right mix of experience and capabilities to maximize Ashland’s full growth potential and deliver long-term stockholder value,” the Covington, Kentucky-based company said in a statement.

Ashland gained 2.1 percent Thursday. The shares have climbed 4 percent this year, giving the company a market value of $4.62 billion.

During the past 15 years, Ashland has transformed itself from an oil refiner and chemicals distributor to a producer of value-added products for industries such as construction, personal care and pharmaceuticals. Chief Executive Officer William Wulfsohn is continuing its shift to specialty chemicals with plans to divest its composites business and a butanediol plant in Marl, Germany.

Ashland appointed former Sealed Air Corp. executive Jerome Peribere in January as an independent director to its 11-member board after he was recommended by Cruiser.

Cruiser’s nominees include turnaround expert William Joyce, who has been CEO of Union Carbide Corp., Nalco Holding Co. and Hercules Inc., which was bought by Ashland in 2008.

The firm has also nominated former Hercules chief financial officer Allen Spizzo, Innocor Inc. ex-CEO Carol Eicher and Pat Gottschalk, a former Dow Chemical Co. president.

“Each of these highly qualified executives has extensive management experience, and demonstrated skills in business leadership and strategy, which qualify them to serve on the company’s board of directors,” Rosenbloom said.

Cruiser isn’t the only activist investor in the chemical space this year. Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management this month disclosed a $690 million position in chemical manufacturer PPG Industries Inc., and said Thursday it would push for a CEO change and a potential split of the company.

RPM International Inc., a provider of specialty coatings and sealants, reached an agreement with Elliott Management Corp. in June for two new directors to be appointed to its board and for the company to launch a review of its operations.

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