Activist investor Keith Meister of Corvex Management LP on Friday said he plans to issue a letter early next week pleading with three recently-installed board members of natural gas pipeline operator Williams Cos (WMB) to form their own strategic review committee with investment bankers retained as advisers.
"I'm going to reach out to the three new directors [of Williams] to beg for help on behalf of all shareholders, urging them to get informed to go meet with shareholders do a roadshow, hear their opinions and get their own investment bankers and meet with those investment bankers with no management present," said Meister on CNBC TV. "They should form their own strategic review committee."
Meister's comments come also after Williams late last month appointed three new members to its board, expanding its size to 10 directors, in a move that came on the heels of Corvex launching a change-of-control proxy fight at the energy company. Meister reported Aug. 24 that he launched a proxy contest to install 10 dissident director candidates to take over the board of Williams, at a meeting set for Nov. 23. Meister said he plans to issue his letter Monday.
Meister and five others resigned from Williams' board in June over disagreements with the rest of the board and company management, including CEO Alan Armstrong, who was against Williams' failed acquisition by an affiliate of Energy Transfer Equity (ETE) .
On Friday, Meister said the proxy contest was still a go even with Enterprise Products' move to cancel its efforts to combine with Williams. Enterprise Products said in a statement Thursday that it had withdrawn its non-binding proposals because there was a "lack of engagement by Williams" and it had "determined that there is no actionable path forward toward an agreement." However, Williams said later Thursday it was surprised by Enterprise's announcement as it was "engaged in the process of carefully reviewing the most recent indication of interest from Enterprise."
Meister said he was skeptical that Williams board constructively engaged Enterprise Products and he brushed off concerns raised in reports that suggested Enterprise's bid for Williams was for less than a 10% premium. He said he didn't know anything about the terms Enterprise was offering - but that a combination of that sort was the right approach.
"I don't think the legacy directors at Williams are the right people to engage in this kind of analysis," Meister said. "Whatever the form is they should figure out how to work together to get the best deal possible..."
He added that the three new directors have the experience and qualifications that are appropriate for this board. The appointees include Stephen Bergstrom, director and former president and CEO of oil and gas infrastructure provider American Midstream Partners (AMID) ; Scott Sheffield, chairman and CEO of oil and gas producer Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD) ; and William Spence, chairman, CEO and president of utility PPL Corp. (PPL) .
"I believe the three new directors, with me out there with a proxy contest for set for Nov. 23, have tremendous power," Meister said. "We're counting on you guys."