This article was first published on Insightia’s Activism module on July 28, 2022. For more information about the product, click here.
Canada’s Suncor Energy has struck a deal with activist investor Elliott Investment Management to add three new directors and set up a committee tasked with reviewing options for its retail business.
Industry veterans Ian Ashby, Chris Seasons, and Jackie Sheppard have been appointed to Suncor’s board, the company said in a Monday press release. Seasons, a former head of Devon Energy’s Canadian division, and Sheppard, an ex-Talisman Energy executive, have also been named to a three-person committee set up to identify a new CEO for Canada’s third-largest oil producer.
The appointments come after Elliott urged Suncor to add five new independent directors with deep expertise in the Canadian energy industry as part of a leadership overhaul. The settlement gives Elliott the right to nominate an additional director if certain performance criteria relative to peers are not met by the end of the year. The two sides also signed an information sharing agreement giving Elliott access to the CEO search process.
Suncor shares were up 4% at CA$40.90 as of 9:50 a.m. EDT Monday in Toronto.
A week ago, Mark Little abruptly left his chief executive position after an accident at one of Suncor’s sites. Elliott previously criticized Suncor over its safety performance, the company having a long history of workplace safety breaches.
In a late April letter, Elliott also took aim at what it called Suncor’s missed production goals and high costs, saying the company needed a strategic and governance revamp to return to the “exceptional performance” that was once its “hallmark.”
One of Elliott’s suggestions was a review of non-core assets and specifically Suncor’s retail assets, which the activist said could be divested to unlock value.
In an apparent response to this, Suncor said Monday that a new board committee will analyze options for its retail network, which includes more than 1,800 gas stations and store locations across Canada. New directors Seasons and Sheppard will oversee the review, alongside board member Russ Girling, the company said.
Commenting on the agreement, Elliott Partner John Pike and Portfolio Manager Mike Tomkins said their firm was “fully” supportive of the strategic review, and three new board additions. Elliott, which manages more than $51 billion in assets, has an economic interest of 3.4% in Suncor.