NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Pershing Square Capital Management was instrumental in driving a shakeup of the management and board ranks at Air Products (APD - Get Report), however, sources tell TheStreet that change was underway well before the Bill Ackman-run fund took a $2.2 billion stake in the under-performing chemicals manufacturer.
On Thursday, Air Products named three new independent directors to its board and said current CEO John E. McGlade would retire in 2014. Those changes were accepted by Pershing Square and the fund will now vote in favor of directors nominated by Air Products at its 2014 annual shareholder meeting.
Air Products named Seifi Ghasemi, CEO of Rockwood Holdings (ROC), Edward L. Monser, COO of Emerson Electric (EMR - Get Report) and Matthew Paull, a former CFO of McDonalds (MCD) to replace three directors that will retire starting in 2014. The company also said it will begin a CEO search to replace McGlade upon his retirement in 2014.
The board overhaul and pending management change at Air Products were taken as a big win for Ackman, after a large investment in J.C. Penney (JCP - Get Report) left Pershing with significant losses and sharp criticism by business luminaries such as Starbucks (SBUX) CEO Howard Schultz.While Pershing did help to impart change at Air Products and was characterized by sources close to the matter as driving a helpful dialogue, the company was already in the process of making many of the changes announced on Thursday. Air Products had hired executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles on retainer to find replacements for board directors reaching their retirement age before Pershing disclosed a 9.8% stake in the company in July, according to one source familiar with the situation. Another source said John E. McGlade was likely already considering a retirement, after decades with the company that culminated in his appointment as CEO in 2007 and chairman in 2008. "None of this was a tectonic shift," that source said of Pershing's impact on Thursday's announced management and board change. "