Hedge fund Mantle Ridge took issue with some facts contained in a CSX news release issued earlier this week on the subject of E. Hunter Harrison becoming the railroad’s CEO.
Mantle Ridge head Paul Hilal said he wrote to the CSX Board of Directors to take issue with the news release, in particular the size of the compensation package for Harrison and Milal’s demands for governance changes for the CSX board.
“We owe it to the shareholders to get a deal done promptly. Let’s do it,” Hilal wrote. “If you are willing, we are glad to meet in person and hammer this out this weekend, hopefully delivering good news to the shareholders early next week.”
In the meantime, Harrison told the Wall Street Journal that he was frustrated with what he described as “chest pounding” between his investment partner and CSX, which has resulted in a stalemate in the negotiations for him take over as CSX as its CEO.
The newspaper reported that CSX had offered the CEO post to Harrison, but that Hilal, a principle at Mantle Ridge, has refused to give in on compensation and governance demands. Hilal, who is representing Harrison, has conducted most of the discussions with CSX.
Mantle Ridge holds less than 5 percent of CSX stock but wants to name six directors to the railroad’s board of directors and reduce the number of directors to 12,
In the news release, CSX said it is reluctant to allow a shareholder with such a small share of its stock to dictate the composition of its board. CSX also has described the demands to give Harrison a $300 million compensation package as “extraordinary in scope.”
The Journal said that during a recent meeting with Mantle Ridge, some CSX shareholders objected to the number of seats on the board that Mantle Ridge wants.
Hilal reportedly said during the meeting he needs to control six seats so that Harrison “has control and can execute his plan.”
CSX reportedly is objecting to paying Harrison the $89 million he gave up by leaving early as Canadian Pacific’s CEO in return for receiving a limited waiver of a non-complete clause.
Hilal contends that the compensation deal that Mantle Ridge is seeking from CSX is $200 million and includes $120 million of stock options, about half of which are tied to “very real” performance measures.
Another sticking point is the 72-year-old Harrison’s refusal to agree to have a physical exam by an independent physician.
Harrison told the Journal he was willing to negotiate his pay with the CSX board,
In his letter, Hilal contended that Harrison wants $32 million per year over four years – or $128 million – of which $20 million per year is performance-based.
“His package is worth very little unless he performs spectacularly,” Hilal wrote. As for the changes on the CSX board, Hilal said he is only seeking a seat for himself.
Harrison would occupy another seat along with four other independent directors who would be agreed upon by CSX and Mantle Ridge
“Why are we asking that new directors be added? As we’ve discussed, precision scheduled railroading requires dramatic operational and cultural change,” Hilal wrote. “Change like that starts at the top, with significant new blood on the board not wed to the old ways or legacy decisions and with no ties to any previous strategy or anyone.”