With a hostile takeover on its hands, Take-Two's ( TTWO) troubles may have just started. A shareholder group is planning to oust the video-game publisher's CEO Paul Eibeler, "review the employment status" of its CFO Karl Winters and take control of the board. Analysts are calling the move "long overdue." The shareholder group, consisting of Oppenheimer Funds, S.A.C. Capital Management, Tudor Investment, D.E. Shaw Valence Portfolios and ZelnickMedia, collectively own a little more than 45% of the company. The news sent shares of Take-Two soaring by nearly $2.42, or 14%, to $20.03 in Wednesday midday trading. In a regulatory filing, the group said it plans to nominate Strauss Zelnick, Benjamin Feder, Jon Moses, Michael Dornemann, Michael James Sheresky and a yet-unidentified sixth person to Take-Two's board of directors. The group also plans to reduce the size of the board from nine to six members. Zelnick, the financial and management consultant for the group, will seek to be the nonexecutive chairman of the board. Take-Two's annual shareholder meeting is planned for Mar. 23. The N.Y.-based company, best known for its Grand Theft Auto game series has recently faced some turbulent times. Last month former CEO Ryan Brant
pleaded guilty to charges related to backdating stock options. He also agreed to pay $6.3 million to settle civil charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
A change of management, though, won't entirely solve Take-Two's problems, according to Elizabeth Osur, an analyst with Citigroup, which makes a market in Take-Two shares. "While this activist step is long overdue, considering the high ownership concentration and several years of poor results, we believe the company's contracts create structural issues that will not be easily solved by the new management," Osur wrote in a research report. Last month, Take-Two restated its financial results and blamed the
higher-than-expected loss on the video-game industry's transition toward next-generation platforms such as Sony's ( SNE) PlayStation 3, Nintendo's ( NTDOY) Wii, and Microsoft's ( MSFT) Xbox 360 consoles. Take-Two said it expects to return to profitability in the fourth quarter and break-even for the full fiscal year 2007. But now the management drama could place that goal in jeopardy.