September 20, 2017 / 3:51 PM / a year ago

Ackman asks ADP's retail investors to back him in new video

BOSTON, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Billionaire hedge fund manager William Ackman on Wednesday spoke to Main Street stockholders, asking this less affluent but hugely influential group to help him win a proxy contest at human resources outsourcing company Automatic Data Processing Inc.

One of Wall Street’s biggest investors, Ackman told ADP’s retail owners, who own 28 percent of the company, they hold the key to the company’s future.

“Your vote will decide this election,” Ackman said in the 2-minute, 11-second-long video released on Wednesday. He asked them to let executives know that shareholders are unhappy with the status quo and echo his message that costs must be cut and management must be streamlined.

With only seven weeks before ADP’s Nov. 7 meeting, Ackman is scrambling to find support for his three proposed board directors in one of the season’s bitterest proxy contests.

Proxy contests are traditionally decided by institutional investors like Vanguard, BlackRock and State Street with activists like Ackman making their cases behind closed conference room doors.

But this time, Ackman - who has won and lost big proxy contests - is making a direct appeal to stakeholders who often back management or do not bother to vote at all.

Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management disclosed an 8.3 percent stake in ADP, but currently holds only about 2 percent of the company’s common stock, a regulatory filing shows.

His personal appeal was designed to make the raft of criticisms and ideas he has hurled at the company in recent weeks more digestible.

He does not want control of the company, but said he thinks ADP, whose shares have gained 22 percent in the last year, can perform better.

Ackman also reminded retail owners of his boardroom coup at railroad Canadian Pacific. Shareholders voted in his seven directors in 2012 and within four years, CP’s operating margins doubled and the share price surged 384 percent. (Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss, editing by G Crosse)

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