Dan Loeb Urges Campbell Soup to Not Hire CEO Before Shareholder Vote

(Bloomberg) -- Activist investor Dan Loeb is calling on Campbell Soup Co. to postpone hiring a chief executive officer until after shareholders vote next month on his slate of directors to replace the current board.

“All best practices of corporate governance dictate that one of the most important responsibilities of any board is to hire and supervise a CEO,” Loeb said in a letter Wednesday to Chairman Les Vinney. “We think it is entirely uncontroversial to insist that the next permanent CEO be selected by the newly elected board.”

Campbell said in an emailed statement it expected to select its new CEO by the end of the year. “The board, with the support of leading candidate assessment and executive search firms, has been examining qualified candidates who possess a track record of proven results and achievement for months,” according to the statement.

Loeb launched his bid in September to replace all 12 directors after Campbell decided to pursue sales of some assets, falling short of his demands for a sale of the entire company. His nominees include investor George Strawbridge, who has partnered with Loeb’s New York-based hedge fund Third Point to push for changes at the soup maker. Together, they control about 8.4 of the stock.

Campbell, based in Camden, New Jersey, has been without a permanent CEO since the unexpected departure of Denise Morrison in May. Shareholders are set to vote Nov. 29 on board nominees.

Loeb said in the letter Wednesday that it would be difficult to attract a “first-rate food executive” for CEO in the midst of a proxy fight and with the threat of being replaced just a few weeks later if the board is reconstituted. He urged the company to respond to his request to delay the hiring by Monday.

“In our experience, transformative CEOs like to be instigators, not merely executors,” Loeb said. “They are there to refresh the recipe when the ingredients have gone stale.”

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