* Herbalife increases board size to 11 from 9
* New members to be chosen by Icahn
* Icahn has right to increase ownership stake to 25 pct
* Herbalife shares up nearly 7 pct
(Adds analyst comments, byline)
By Martinne Geller
Feb 28 Herbalife Ltd said it plans to
add two directors to its board picked by activist investor Carl
Icahn, who has supported the nutritional products company in its
fight against hedge fund manager William Ackman.
Under terms of the agreement announced on Thursday, Icahn
also has the right to increase his stake in Herbalife to 25
percent from nearly 14 percent now.
Herbalife shares jumped 7.5 percent in afternoon trade, as
the news raised "hopes that Herbalife will recapitalize,
accelerate stock repurchase and/or look to be acquired," said
S&P Capital IQ analyst Tom Graves.
At the very least, Icahn, one of the world's best-known
investors, will soon have access to non-public information about
Herbalife which may bolster his side of the public debate with
Ackman over the legitimacy of the multi-level marketer's
"He has a board level opportunity to get some questions
answered. That's worth something," said D.A. Davidson analyst
Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management bet roughly $1
billion that Herbalife is an unsustainable pyramid scheme
destined to collapse. Icahn contends that it is a good company
with good management.
Icahn's directors expand the size of Herbalife's board to 11
Herbalife Chief Executive Michael Johnson said in a
statement that the company looks forward to working with them.
"We appreciate the Icahn parties' shared views on the
inherent value of Herbalife's operations, products and future
prospects," Johnson said.
Icahn said in the statement that he expects the
representatives to provide "positive input into board decisions
affecting the future of the company." He did not say who the
representatives might be or in what strategic direction he would
like to see the company move.
He was not immediately available to comment. Ackman was also
not immediately available.
Herbalife shares jumped $2.85, or 7.6 percent, to $40.29 on
the New York Stock Exchange.
(Reporting by Martinne Geller in New York and Svea Herbst in
Boston; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Gerald E. McCormick, Andre
Grenon and Eric Walsh)