Elliott Management has released a public letter to the board of Marathon Petroleum, calling for a breakup three years after its last engagement with the company ended in a compromise.
In a letter shared on a new campaign website Wednesday, the $38 billion activist hedge fund said it believed Marathon’s retail, midstream, and refining operations had few synergies and would enjoy “significant upside with independent management.”
The letter, signed by John Pike and Phillip Ziegler, argued that Marathon’s stock could double if it implemented the breakup and improved operations, predicting a 61% upside if only the breakup was undertaken.
Shares rose more than 5% in early trading on the announcement.
Marathon responded on Wednesday, saying that it is in regular communication with shareholders and “welcomes constructive input related to enhancing shareholder value.” The company added that its board is focused on delivering long-term shareholder value.
“We look forward to maintaining an ongoing dialogue with our shareholders as we continue to evaluate opportunities to deliver more value for our shareholders. We will thoroughly evaluate Elliott’s proposal and look forward to continuing our constructive engagement around these issues,” Marathon said in a statement.
Elliott had previously advocated for the breakup in November 2016. Marathon responded by reviewing its retail operation, Speedway, and moving midstream assets to a master limited partnership called MPLX.
Although some shareholders, including John Fox, the founder of one of Marathon’s acquired businesses, quibbled with the valuations, the plan was a hit. From below $44 before Elliott’s initial letter in 2016, Marathon stock rose to a peak of $88.45 in October last year. Elliott exited the stock in late 2017, according to Activist Insight Online.
However, since the peak, shares have lost more than 37% of their value, closing yesterday at $55.48 and enticing Elliott back in. It bought a toehold stake in the second quarter and now owns 2.5% of the company.
Elliott’s previous campaign at Marathon was led by Quentin Koffey, who subsequently joined D.E. Shaw Investment Group and then Senator Investment Group.
Gary Heminger, who joined Marathon in 1975 and became CEO in 2011, has faced both campaigns. Jim Rohr, who retired from the board of EQT at the climax of July’s proxy fight, is identified as Marathon’s lead independent director in Elliott’s letter.