- Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman has been locked in a proxy battle with activist target ADP for months.
- ADP CEO Carlos Rodriguez hasn’t hesitated to call out Ackman publicly about his attempts to use the media to sway the activist proceeding.
The latest development came over the weekend, when the CEO of ADP — the payroll and benefit provider that’s drawn unwelcome interest from Ackman — shared some comments with Lindsay Fortado of the Financial Times.
Carlos Rodriguez told the FT that the second time he spoke with Ackman, the Pershing Square Capital Management CEO warned him that if ADP didn’t comply with his activist wishes, then he’d conduct a public campaign against the company — one he was well-positioned to win.
“He said: I know you don’t like the media, but I do and I’m really good at it,” Rodriguez told the FT. “And if this gets into a public battle, it’s going to be bad for you personally, it’s going to be bad for the company, but I’m fine with it because — and he said this — I’m told that I’m only second to Donald Trump in terms of number of clicks on the internet, and hence you will lose if there’s a public relations battle.”
In a statement given to Business Insider, Pershing Square spokesman Fran McGill called Rodriguez’s comments “inaccurate, and a complete mischaracterization of their conversation.”
This is just the latest entry in the ongoing saga between Ackman and the New Jersey-based company, which have been grappling for weeks over the activist investor’s quest for board seats. ADP rejected Ackman’s nominees back in August.
Ackman had been seeking three spots on ADP’s board as part of a “transformation plan” that he thinks could double the company’s stock price, according to comments made on a conference call earlier this year.
Rodriguez’s comments to the FT don’t mark the first time ADP has publicly aired out Ackman’s attempts to use the media to his advantage. In a late-August regulatory filing, the company accused Ackman of threatening to use his ability to generate media coverage to “damage” the company.
Further, earlier in the ordeal, following Ackman’s attempt to get an extension for his submission of potential board replacements, Rodriguez even went as far as to say in a CNBC interview that the billionaire hedge funder’s behavior reminded him of a “spoiled brat” asking a teacher for an extension on homework.
Throughout the war of words, Ackman has disputed Mr Rodriguez’s recollection of their conversations, saying publicly that he’s willing to work with him.
“It’s disappointing that ADP continues to attack the messenger instead of addressing the important questions we have raised about ADP’s operational underperformance and its deteriorating competitive position,” Ackman told the FT.
If the past few months are any indication, this escalating situation is far from over. Stay tuned for updates.