Starboard Value May Succeed in Proxy Battle vs. Newell Brands

Shares of Newell Brands (NWL) are down 3.5% to $26.95 after reports say activist investor Starboard Value will launch a proxy fight against the struggling company.

Starboard wants to replace the company's board of directors. According to reports, its plan includes placing former Jarden CEO Jim Lillie -- Jarden was acquired by Newell in December 2015 -- as Newell's CEO. It also involves making Martin Franklin chairman of the board.

Franklin, notably, served as the chairman of Jarden and was on the Newell board of directors until just a few weeks when he resigned. Speaking on CNBC's "Mad Dash" segment, TheStreet's Jim Cramer had plenty of praise for Franklin, calling him a "genius."

Worth pointing out is that Starboard pushed for big changes like this at Darden Restaurants (DRI) . Shares are now up 70% over the last three years, despite the latest pullback.

Newell's sales channels are the problem right now, Cramer reasoned. He explained that with the shift from bricks-and-mortar to e-commerce, some form of slowdown is no surprise. But the fact that nearly all of Newell's channels are down is really hurting this company.

Shares of Newell are down roughly 50% since July.

Newell's Graco Car Seats
Newell's Graco Car Seats

It's going to be hard for investors to resists Starboard's suggestions. Current CEO Michael Polk has had to pre-announce worse-than-expected results more than once, proving he isn't a very good forecaster, said Cramer, who also manages the Action Alerts PLUS charitable trust portfolio.

In that sense, there's a "very good case" for going along with Starboard's plan, he added.

If management does indeed see a shakeup, they may find success by making it a priority to maximize cash flows rather than focusing so much on revenue growth, Cramer concluded.

Despite a late-session rally, Newell stock still ended the day down 1.07% to $27.61. 

At the time of publication, Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS had no position in any security mentioned.

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