CINCINNATI -- Weeks could pass before hedge fund manager Nelson Peltz and the Procter & Gamble board know for certain whether his bid for a seat at the table was successful, but the preliminary results of the Oct. 10 election show him wanting for millions of votes.
According to a report submitted by P&G to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo received 6,151,417 more votes than Peltz, who waged a monthslong campaign against the P&G establishment in hopes of radically restructuring the company. His vision would decentralize P&G from its Cincinnati headquarters, dividing it into three branches he claimed would have more market agility and accountability.
Between his attempts to woo shareholders and the efforts of P&G leaders to retain them, the contest cost at least $65 million, making it the most expensive proxy battle in history.
And Peltz won't surrender without a fight. According to CNBC, he and P&G leaders will enter the "snake pit" -- the often-venomous stage in which each contested vote is recounted -- and spend multiple weeks verifying the final results.
"We really do respect all our shareholders," P&G CEO David Taylor said last week. "So, I will visit him. We'll have the appropriate interactions and to the extent he's got ideas that'll help us, we will move forward."
Is it really possible for initial tallies to be off by over 6 million? Technically, anything could happen, but a recount significantly changing the outcome is unlikely. It's also unlikely that Taylor will "magnanimously" invite Peltz onto the board he worked so hard to keep intact.
In the end, Peltz might have to be content with the fact that his destabilizing influence pushed other board members and prominent shareholders to articulate their own frustrations with the company's current direction. Peltz might not make it into a position in which he exerts direct control over P&G's future, but Taylor can't unring that bell.
"Your project delivery, your technology innovation is not nearly as good as it could be," George Morgan, a shareholder and retiree whose name is on two P&G patents, said on the day of the vote. "I implore the board to do something to fix this problem."
Taylor, appearing to recognize a slight shift in the wind, told shareholders he was committed to making the improvements Peltz and Morgan sought -- if not precisely in the way Peltz suggested.