PITTSBURGH: Heinz, the iconic maker of ketchup and other food and condiment products, is locked in a fierce proxy battle with a large shareholder that has both sides scrambling to lock up investor support before the company's August 16 annual meeting.
Heinz is working with Edelman and the Brunswick Group on the issue.
Michael Mullen, Heinz's director of global corporate affairs, said the company is using "various communications vehicles" to urge shareholders to sign its white proxy card. Trian, the investment group led by Nelson Peltz that is pushing for a restructuring of Heinz, is touting its own gold proxy card.
Last week, the company took out full-page ads in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other papers pushing its own plan. Mullen said that other initiatives include senior Heinz executives making personal calls to large shareholders, several direct mailings, and the Web site heinzsuperiorvalue.com dedicated to the issue specifically. Mullen would not disclose the site's traffic, but called it "very successful."
Mullen said that Heinz has been issuing press releases "almost every day" over the course of the battle, which has been heating up since March.
"It's the hottest proxy fight of the summer," he said. "Any time you have a name like Heinz, a household name, clearly it's going to get a lot of attention."
Trian's public plan has closely echoed that of Heinz; it has its own Web site, enhanceheinz.com, that takes shots at the company's current leadership and strategy. Trian has also released its own letter to shareholders, urging them to support Trian's bid for seats on the Heinz board.
Anne Tarbell, Trian's spokesperson and SVP of corporate communications and IR for Triarc, the parent company of Trian, did not return a call before press time.
Edelman and Brunswick declined to comment on the record about their work for Heinz.