Robert L. Chapman is managing partner of a hedge fund called Chap-Cap Partners, El Segundo, Calif., which has accumulated 1.7 million shares of IRI stock, or more than 5% of the company, since January. IRI has traded near all-time lows since December, when IRI lost its biggest account, Procter & Gamble Co., which announced it would shift its U.S. scanner data tracking account to VNU's ACNielsen Corp.
In a scathing letter to Mr. Durrett,
Mr. Chapman said he has been in contact with other dissatisfied shareholders and cited Mr. Durrett's statement on a conference call earlier this month that IRI is seeking potential partners. "Chapman Capital strongly encourages you to do the right thing by selling IRI to one of these partners before IRI's shareholders take it upon themselves to find another CEO and board of directors who will do so in your stead," the letter said.
An IRI spokeswoman had no comment on the SEC filing or whether the company would consider an auction. But she said: "Management is committed to delivering shareholder value and continually looks for ways to advance the value of IRI."
Agitator for change
Mr. Chapman has a long history of seeking out companies he believes are undervalued or poorly run and agitating for management changes or sales. Among deals he has helped bring about was USA Detergents' 2000 acquisition by Church & Dwight Co. His SEC filing comes only six weeks after another investor with an activist reputation, Joseph L. Harrosh, reported taking a stake of more than 5% in IRI.
IRI stock has plunged nearly 60%, setting a new all-time low of $1.23 earlier this month following P&G's announcement. But the stock surged 13% to $1.70 as word of Mr. Chapman's involvement hit financial wires in mid-morning trading. The stock is still down 88% from a 52-week high of $10.53 set in May.