Did investor revolt force Chesco CEO to quit?

Shares of Chesterbrook-based air-compressor and industrial-blower maker Gardner Denver Inc. fell as much as $5 a share, to its lowest price in two years, after the resignation today of Barry Pennypacker, the chief executive who moved the firm to suburban Philadelphia from Quincy, Ill., in December 2010 to be closer to investors and customers.

Pennypacker, a Royersford native, left three days before Gardner Denver was scheduled to report its quarterly profits. The company said it was making no change in its earnings projections.

Michael M. Larsen, Gardner Denver's chief financial officer and a former executive at Trevose-based GE Water, was named to replace Pennypacker in the top job. Pennypacker was unavailable for comment at his office.

Pennypacker resigned as activist investor ValueAct Capital, of San Francisco and Boston, has been accumulating shares of Gardner Denver, notes Damien J. Park, a Philadelphia-based consultant to companies coping with activist investors.  

(Revised) ValueAct, which says it works with executives of target companies to "unlock shareholder value," now owns just under 5% of Gardner Denver, trailing only T. Rowe Price and Vanguard mutual funds among Gardner Denver shareholders, according to SEC money-manager reports.

UPDATE: "It’s not uncommon for a board of directors to make significant management changes soon after an activist investor like ValueAct Capital has disclosed a large ownership stake," Park told me. ValueAct manages $7 billion in assets; past targets include Sara Lee Corp. and Thomson Reuters, among others, according to a report Park wrote for the Conference Board in 2010. 

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