Exxon Activist Reveals High $30 Million Cost of Boardroom Battle

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Waging a boardroom battle at Exxon Mobil Corp. comes with a hefty price tag, as first-time activist investor Engine No. 1 is finding out.

The San Francisco-based hedge fund said in a regulatory filing this week that it expects its proxy fight at Exxon to cost roughly $30 million. While that isn’t an unusually high number for a fight of this magnitude, it does amount to more than half of the current value of Engine No. 1’s $54 million stake in the largest U.S. oil and gas producer. It’s also equal to about 75% of the value of Engine No. 1’s Exxon shares when it initially took its position.

Softening the blow somewhat: Exxon’s shares are trading about 39% higher than when Engine No. 1 first disclosed its stake in the company on Dec. 7, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The company’s shares have outpaced the broader S&P 500 Energy Index, which has gained about 25% over the same period.

Engine No. 1, which has nominated four directors to Exxon’s board, said it had spent about $2.83 million so far. Exxon has said it expects the fight to cost about $35 million, of which $1.5 million has already been spent.

Representatives for Exxon and Engine No. 1 declined to comment.

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