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Willis Towers Watson Revamps Board After Reported Investor Pressure

Willis Towers Watson, faced with pressure from investors, is replacing four board members, a media report says.

Willis Towers Watson, (WLTW) - Get Willis Towers Watson PLC (WLTW) Report faced with pressure from investors, is replacing four board members, a media report says.

Willis Towers said in a statement that it named four new nonexecutive directors. Inga Beale, Fumbi Chima, Michael Hammond and Michelle Swanback will join the board in 2022. Chairman Victor Ganzi is among the directors who will step down.

The move followed talks with the activist investment firm Elliott Management, one of Willis Towers Watson's largest investors, The Wall Street Journal reported. The company said it had a "constructive engagement" with Elliott.

In the summer, a planned merger between the London provider of risk-management and human-resources services and peer British risk-management firm Aon  (AON) - Get Aon plc Report fell through after the U.S. Department of Justice challenged it on antitrust grounds.

After the merger plan ended, Elliott and Starboard Value took stakes in the company, the Journal reported. 

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The paper reported that investors considered the company's performance lackluster.

Willis Towers Watson had hoped the merger with Aon would enable it to reduce costs and boost revenue, the paper reported.

Instead, WLTW outlined a turnaround plan involving stock buybacks and cost cuts, the Journal reported. The company plans to buy back $4 billion of stock by the end of 2022.

In August Willis Towers Watson said it agreed to sell its global reinsurance business to Arthur J. Gallagher (AJG) - Get Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Report for as much as $4 billion. 

Willis Towers Watson's board includes a chief executive and eight nonexecutive directors, the Journal reported. In August, the board selected Carl Hess, the company's head of investment, risk and reinsurance, as CEO, effective Jan. 1. 

Willis Towers Watson shares at close on Thursday were little changed at $228.44. They are off about 15% since they touched a 52-week high $271.87 in mid-May.