Cerberus Capital Management dodged a bullet with its recent decision to let investors sell out of one of the world’s biggest gunmakers, Remington Outdoor. It’s the company that made the assault rifle used to kill 20 children and six of their teachers in a Connecticut elementary school in December 2012.
Cerberus’s chief executive, Stephen A. Feinberg, has a clear motivation to offer the likes of gigantic pension funds like the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, or Calstrs, the choice to dump their Remington shares. He hopes it will allow his private equity firm to put this bloody chapter behind it and get to work raising a new $3.5 billion buyout fund.
There’s no question this was a victory for the social activists who led a push for public pension funds to shed their holdings in the arms business after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre two and a half years ago in Newtown — my hometown. Even the rapper and former gun-toter Snoop Dogg made pleas for divestment.
But what if there was a better way to effect change by persuading investors to behave more like shareholder activists than social ones?
Calstrs and the other limited partners in the Cerberus funds that own Remington, formerly known as Freedom Group, have a month to decide whether to sell their shares to Remington or remain as investors. Most of them will probably just unload. The better, albeit more difficult, route would be to hang on and make some noise at Remington.
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They could, for instance, insist that Remington ensure all its guns are sold through distributors who conduct more rigorous background checks, or that the company ramps up investments in developing weapons that won’t go off when a child finds them in a negligent parent’s night stand. They might even demand Remington stop supporting the National Rifle Association.
Oh this is just rich. Mr. social action is recommending that investors crash Remington. He knows it. We all know it. We all know that the job Remington started with commitment to labor unions, staying ensconced in New York, focusing on military contracts, and ignoring the Remington 700 trigger issues, the job of almost destroying Remington, would be finished with social action agitation by investors.
So let’s queue it up. I dare you. Hold on to your shares, agitate social action, and watch the value of your stocks evaporate before your eyes. I don’t believe the gun grabbers have the balls to do something like this. But if there is any putting your money where your big mouth is, this is the chance.
Do it. I dare you. Any takers?