Activist investor Jeff Ubben joins Exxon Mobil’s board

Activist investor Jeff Ubben has joined Exxon Mobil’s board of directors, the company said Monday.

Exxon shares jumped 4% after CNBC’s David Faber first reported the shake-up.

Mike Angelakis, the chairman and chief executive officer of Atairos and former CFO of Comcast, has also joined the oil giant’s board of directors.

The moves come as Exxon has faced pressure from shareholders to reshuffle its board amid the company’s languishing stock price. Exxon’s investor day is Wednesday.

“We welcome these new directors as part of our ongoing board refreshment, which builds on the diverse global business experience of our current members,” Darren Woods, Exxon’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “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,” he added.

The board changes come after Exxon announced a new director in February, saying it expected “to take further action in the near term.”

D.E. Shaw, which has been pushing Exxon for changes, is expected to support the latest board changes, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Ubben founded Inclusive Capital Partners in 2020, after stepping away from ValueAct, the firm he founded in 2000. In his last few years at the firm he oversaw ValueAct’s Spring Fund, which was focused on sustainable investing.

Ubben is expected to become a significant Exxon shareholder over time, according to the sources. Ubben’s no stranger to investing in oil and gas companies. While at ValueAct he took a stake in BP, saying traditional energy companies can belong in ESG portfolios.

Exxon has come under fire for failing to invest in the future of energy. Earlier this year the company announced plans to invest $3 billion in carbon capture and other emissions-cutting technology. 

In December then newly formed activist investor group Engine No. 1 announced plans to seek four Exxon board seats. The group, which includes founders from activist hedge funds including Partner Fund Management and JANA Partners, won the support of California pension giant CALSTRS.

Following Exxon’s February announcement that Tan Sri Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin, former Petronas CEO, would join the board, Engine No. 1 said the changes didn’t go far enough.

“A Board that has underperformed this dramatically and defied shareholder sentiment for this long has not earned the right to choose its own new members or pack itself in the face of calls for change,” the group said in a statement. “ExxonMobil shareholders deserve a Board that works proactively to create long-term value, not defensively in the face of deteriorating returns and the threat of losing their seats.”

Shares of Exxon are up 32% this year amid investors’ rotation into the beaten-down energy sector.

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