The Activist Playbook is Nearly 90 Years Old

Jeff Gramm is a hedge fund manager who teaches value investing at Columbia Business School. He is the author of “Dear Chairman: Boardroom Battles and the Rise of Shareholder Activism.” In 1927, Benjamin Graham pressured Northern Pipeline Company to distribute its excess cash to shareholders. When the company refused, he ran a proxy fight to put himself on the board of directors. Graham later became famous as Warren Buffett’s mentor and the father of value investing. But at the time he was taking a path untrodden as an obscure fund manager intervening in a public company’s governance. Graham later explained that Wall Street in the 1920s was an elite insiders’ club that viewed pushy stockholders as extortionists.

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