ExxonMobil is adding two prominent activist investors to its board of directors, in a bid to halt the first credible threat to overthrow its board in modern history.
The decision to add Jeff Ubben, co-founder of Inclusive Capital Partners, and former Comcast (CMCSA) finance chief Michael Angelakis comes as Exxon faces extreme dissent from shareholders about its poor performance and climate stance.
Exxon, once the world’s largest company by market value, has lost $200 billion of its market value since mid-2014. Last summer the company was kicked out of the Dow Jones Industrial Average after nearly a century.
But rumors of activist involvement and surging oil prices have lifted Exxon nearly 40% this year. Wall Street applauded Monday’s board shakeup, driving Exxon (XOM) up 4% after CNBC first reported the news.
In a statement, Exxon CEO Darren Woods welcomed the addition of Ubben and Angelakis and noted their history in helping companies “navigate complex transitions.”
“Their contributions will be valued as ExxonMobil advances plans to increase shareholder value by responsibly providing needed energy while playing a leadership role in the energy transition,” Woods said.
Ubben, who stepped down last year from hedge fund ValueAct, is known for activist campaigns that helped convince Microsoft (MSFT), BP and other major companies to change their strategies. When Ubben launched Inclusive Capital Partners last year, he said the strategy would be to work with management teams and board “with the courage to lead on solutions to climate change and social inequity can generate massive shareholders.”
Angelakis previously served as the chief financial officer of Comcast and chairman of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank.
However, at least some Exxon critics are dissatisfied because neither Ubben nor Angelakis have long track records working at renewable energy or fossil fuel companies.
Engine No. 1, the activist investment firm that launched a battle to oust Exxon board members in January, indicated it is not backing down from its fight to add four experienced energy executives.
“While ExxonMobil has now conceded the need for board change, what is missing are directors with diverse track records of success in the energy industry who can position the company for success in a changing world,” Engine No. 1 said in a statement to CNN Business.
ExxonMobil lost $22.4 billion last year, its first annual loss since the 1999 merger that created the energy behemoth. The massive loss was mostly driven by huge writedowns in the value of its assets.