In a move that appears to have quelled tensions with an activist shareholder once sharply critical of the company’s progress toward adopting renewable energy, Hawaiian Electric Industries has appointed one of the shareholder’s executives to its board of directors.
Eva Zlotnicka, a managing director of ValueAct Capital Management’s Spring Fund, joined the board of Hawaiian Electric Co.’s parent company, effective immediately, Hawaiian Electric announced on Wednesday.
“I’m honored to be joining the HEI board,” Zlotnicka said in a news release. “ValueAct was first attracted to HEI because of its record of progress supporting Hawaii’s commitment to the environment and carbon neutrality.”
Jeff Ubben, ValueAct’s founder and chairman and the Spring Fund’s co-portfolio manager said, “We appreciate HEI’s collaborative approach and look forward to supporting their efforts going forward.”
It was a striking change of tone for Ubben, who just a few months ago wrote a letter to stakeholders highly critical of Hawaiian Electric and its management’s efforts to wean itself from fossil fuels to generate electricity. Management was doing such a bad job, Ubben said in the November letter, that the board needed to hire someone from outside of the company to succeed HEI’s chief executive, Constance Lau, when she stepped down.
The lingering question was whether ValueAct would press that issue by pushing for more board changes to gain greater influence over the selection of management. But such a move does not seem in the offing. In conjunction with Zlotnicka’s appointment, HEI has entered into an agreement with ValueAct Capital containing a commitment by ValueAct to vote in favor of the HEI Board’s nominees at the 2020 annual meeting, the company said.
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