Guy Wyser-Pratte, an ex-Marine, has rattled the management of Bremen-based satellite manufacturer OHB by saying its current management structure has “more of a resemblance of a feudal barony, with vassals paying homage to the lord of the manor.” Seven years ago, he was the first US activist investor to turn his attention to Germany. By forcing toolmaker IWKA to sell off its robotics arm, Kuka, he increased his own investment tenfold. Famously outspoken, he once said change-resistant managers should "wake up and smell the napalm." Picture source:
Florian Schuhbauer, one of the founding partners of Active Ownership Capital (AOC), is among the most successful German activist investors. He said he would never take on a family-owned firm. His focus is on listed European companies worth between €50 million and €1.5 billion. “Listed firms have often put on a bit of fat,” he said. “They frequently lack proper controls.” Picture source:
Jens Tischendorf is the head of German operations at Swedish investor Cevian. He said he prefers persuasion over coercion: “The Anglo-Saxon model – controversy, publicity and quick divestment – is not for us.” Currently worth €15 billion, Cevian favors a longer view, investing for between 5 and 7 years. Between them, the company’s 12 major investments brought a return of over 10 percent last year. Cevian owns a 15 percent stake in the industrial group Thyssenkrupp, where management are currently trying to spin off the steel-making division in a mega-merger with Tata Steel.
Former Goldman Sachs banker Klaus Umek co-founded Petrus Advisers, a London-based investment house. “We’re not cowboys riding into town… But we can act like that too,” he said. Petrus is now gunning for Comdirect, the online bank owned by Commerzbank, Germany’s second-largest bank. In a recent letter to Commerzbank CEO Martin Zielke, Petrus said Comdirect was “without ideas,” with “no interest in growth.” Fire the management team, it demanded. Picture source:
Sir Christopher Hohn founded British hedge fund TCI Fund Management, which has been pushing for change at Volkswagen, urging it last year to end boardroom "extravagance" and to reduce the “huge sums of money” paid to executives. Picture source: