NEW YORK — The lines have been drawn in the Cone Mills Corp. proxy battle, with the greens on one side and the whites on the other.

Last week, the Greensboro, N.C.-based company’s board and a group of dissident investors with a 9.5 percent stake in the denim mill sent out conflicting proxy statements to shareholders, proposing the election of competing slates of directors at the company’s Sept. 25 annual meeting.

In the white corner, representing the board, are sitting directors Jeanette Cone Kimmel, David T. Kollat and John W. Rosenblum.

In the green corner are the dissidents’ champions: Charles L. Barry, Randall G. Kominsky and Jess M. Ravich.

There are currently 11 directors on Cone’s board, including Marc Kozberg, the leader of the dissident group.

Marc Kozberg, who was elected to Cone’s board in 1999, represents a group holding 2.7 million shares in the mill. His complaints include that the company has been slow to recapitalize its debts and has not sold off divisions that Kozberg considers underperforming.

Most recently, Kozberg opposed a convertible-stock financing deal Cone had reached with financier Wilbur L. Ross’ W.L. Ross & Co. to pay for the expansion of Cone’s Mexican operations. Ross has received court approval to buy Burlington Industries Inc. out of bankruptcy.

In their proxy, the shareholders’ group said, “New leadership on the Cone Mills’ board is needed because, in our view, the current board and management has failed to take decisive action to address the company’s financial needs.”

In its proxy, the Cone board said, “Kozberg’s nominees’ experience in our industry is limited and unrelated to our core business. We do not believe that they have suggested any realistic plan for the company to deal with the pervasive problems facing Cone Mills and the U.S. textile industry.”

Among the dissident nominees, Barry is a fan-industry executive; Kominsky is president of the Alliance for Financial Growth Inc., a consulting firm that has worked for Cone, and Ravich is president and chief executive of Libra Securities, an investment-banking firm.

Among the directors standing for reelection, Kimmel has been on the board since 1971, Kollat is described as a marketing expert and Rosenblum is the former dean of the University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business Administration.

To access this article, click here to subscribe or to log in.

load comments
blog comments powered by Disqus