February 22, 2018 / 12:23 PM / 24 days ago

Newell Brands names two independent directors to board

(Reuters) - Sharpie pens maker Newell Brands Inc on Thursday named two new independent directors to its board, rebuffing attempts by activist investor Starboard Value LP to replace the company’s board.

The activist hedge fund has nominated a 10-member slate and wants to oust Newell Chief Executive Michael Polk, saying the company has underperformed peers and mismanaged the integration of Jarden Corp, which the company bought in 2016.

Two nominees on Starboard’s slate are former Jarden executives who were previously on Newell’s board, but resigned last month.

Newell named James Craigie, former CEO of Trojan condoms maker Church & Dwight Co, and Debra Crew, the former CEO of tobacco company Reynolds American, to its board, expanding its size to 11.

It will also nominate another candidate, ex-Transora CEO Judith Sprieser, at its annual shareholder meeting that is typically held in May.

“With today’s board refreshment we believe Newell Brands is even more strongly positioned to accelerate our transformation plan and evolve our business for the future,” Polk said in a statement.

The tussle began after Newell unveiled a turnaround plan in January that calls for shrinking the company’s factories and warehouses as well as its customer base by half in a bid to save $6 billion.

The company is also paring down to its core by jettisoning 10 business lines, many of which it acquired through the Jarden buyout including Rawlings and Goody.

The Hoboken, New Jersey based Newell on Thursday also said it was making “strong progress” with its transformation plan and reaffirmed its full year 2018 forecast.

With the two new appointments, the board will include five directors who are either current or former CEOs or chief financial officers, Newell said.

Starboard did not respond to a request for comment.

The company’s shares, which have fallen 42 percent in the past 12 months, rose 2.5 percent in light premarket trading on Thursday.

(This story was corrected to clarify in paragraph 4 that Church & Dwight makes Trojan condoms, not Durex

Reporting by Vibhuti Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

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