Icahn gets four board seats in Newell's fight against Starboard

Billionaire activist-investor Carl Icahn gives an interview on FOX Business Network's Neil Cavuto show in New York February 11, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) - Newell Brands Inc is giving billionaire investor Carl Icahn four board seats as it tries to rebuff another hedge fund investor Starboard Value LP, which has been pushing for full control of the Sharpie pens maker's board of directors.

The news comes just days after Icahn disclosed a 6.86 percent stake in the Hoboken, New Jersey-based consumer products company and said he could seek board representation.

Icahn, in turn, will back the rest of Newell's board at the company's annual shareholder meeting that is typically held in May. He will also get to pick two more directors to stand for election at the meeting, subject to the current board's approval.

Starboard, which owns about 4.5 percent of Newell, wants to replace CEO Michael Polk and the company's entire board, arguing that Newell has been performing poorly since buying Jarden Corp in 2016.

The Jeffrey Smith-led hedge fund had nominated a 12-member slate that included former Newell directors to replace the current nine-member board.

Starboard did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Icahn is known for going up against other high-profile activist investors, famously taking on Pershing Square Capital Management's Bill Ackman more than four years ago over his bet against Herbalife.

"Icahn is an unusual white knight, whose arrival might save (Newell's management) from losing all the board positions to Starboard," said Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.

"Management clearly expected to lose to Starboard and welcomed Icahn to save them," he added.

Newell said Icahn's views on strategy aligned with those of the company. It said last week that Starboard had not bothered to approach its management or the board to better understand its performance.

Icahn's designated directors include his son Brett, Andrew Langham, Courtney Mather and Patrick Campbell, who was also named Newell's non-executive chairman.

Newell's shares, which have fallen 3 percent since Starboard launched its proxy fight, rose 5 percent to $29.95 in premarket trading on Monday.

(Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Sai Sachin Ravikumar)