| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Jan 17 Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) Chief
Executive Brian Roberts has come under fire from a shareholder
who has written to the board demanding that he be replaced and
the board re-initiates a stock dividend.
Chieftain Capital, an investment advisory firm that owns
around 60 million Comcast shares, or about 2 percent of shares
outstanding, called on the board to install a "highly qualified
CEO" who will focus on maximizing value for shareholders.
The firm has been disappointed with the No. 1 U.S. cable
operator's 40 percent drop in share price over the past 12
"We want and deserve the best CEO Comcast's board of
directors can find -- and, based on his record, Brian Roberts
is not it," Chieftain said in a letter dated Jan. 14 and
addressed to J Michael Cook, presiding director on Comcast's
New York-based Chieftain slammed Comcast management for a
series of missteps which have resulted in "zero return" for
shareholders, describing it as a "Comcastrophe."
When asked for comment, Comcast said its management team is
focused on executing its strategic plan and investing for
profitable growth, and creating long-term shareholder value. It
also pointed out a survey by Institutional Investor magazine
named Roberts the top cable and satellite CEO of the year.
"We have met with Chieftain and have discussed their
perspective on numerous occasions," Comcast said in an e-mailed
"While we have expressed our disagreement with Chieftain's
perspective in the past, we will review Chieftain's most recent
correspondence and will respond in due course."
Chieftain, which manages around $5 billion in funds, said
Comcast should impose strict financial discipline on its
management team and stringently manage capital expenditure,
eliminate wasteful spending on non-core acquisitions and
The letter also asked Comcast to commit to a policy of
returning cash to shareholders, including a "meaningful
dividend." Chieftain said Comcast should increase its debt to
an appropriate level.
One Wall Street analyst disagreed with Chieftain's call for
higher debt at a time when competition from phone and satellite
companies is mounting.
"The last thing we believe Comcast should do is drastically
lever up and buy back stock as Chieftain is asking for," said
Richard Greenfield, analyst at Pali Research.
"Like it or not, Comcast is in a 'war' with competition
escalating on existing fronts and all-new fronts," said
Greenfield in a blog note for clients.
Chieftain said it wants to meet with the independent
members of the board as soon as possible to discuss how best to
achieve the changes it wants. The letter was signed by the
firm's three managing directors.
(Reporting by Yinka Adegoke, editing by Richard Chang)