Procter & Gamble executives adopted a markedly lighter-than-usual tone — telling anecdotes and attempting jokes — on a webcast with investors Tuesday.
The webcast was scheduled for chief executive officer David Taylor, chief financial officer Jon Moeller and board member and Hewlett Packard Enterprise ceo Meg Whitman to answer shareholder questions, most of which were sent in advance, and ranged from compensation to market share.
The trio is trying to keep activist investor Nelson Peltz, who owns a $3.5 billion stake in P&G, off the P&G board. Peltz has criticized the business for being too bureaucratic and losing market share, among other things, and started a proxy fight with the consumer packaged-goods giant back in July to try to get a board seat. Both sides have filed a flurry of documents with the SEC in recent months.
The Taylor-Moeller-Whitman group reiterated improvements P&G has touted throughout the proxy battle, and assured shareholders that it had and will continue to listen to Peltz’s ideas.
“At this time, we want to stay focused on our transformation,” Taylor said on the webcast, adding that success for P&G to him, includes growing share in the 10 categories that the company competes in and amping up shareholder returns. “To me, we’re well on our way,” Taylor said. He also highlighted the company’s transformation from 170 brands to 60, and from 16 categories to 10.
The group also addressed the recent alignment of proxy services firms‘ with Peltz, saying that a ‘why not’ isn’t a good reason to bring a new person onto the board. “It’s not the right time and he’s not the right person for P&G’s board today,” Taylor said.
Taylor said the business would look to add category experience and global experience for its board, and Whitman noted that former Macy’s ceo Terry Lundgren, who joined the board in 2013, had been “helpful” as P&G evaluates the retail climate.
As for executive compensation, the trio reminded listeners that not all executives actually earn all the pay outlined in the proxy statements.
Moeller told what he called “a short human-interest story” on the topic, saying that when his compensation became public he came home to his wife standing at the front door holding the statement. “She said, ‘Jon, where did all that money go? It’s not in our bank account,'” he quipped. Moeller added to the conversation after opening the webcast with the “shortest Regulation G announcement ever” — a financial joke that drew a chuckle from Taylor.
When discussing board engagement, Whitman noted that board meetings can sometimes seem like “death by PowerPoint,” but noted that P&G’s board has a 95 percent attendance rate and is engaged.
P&G shareholders vote on whether or not Peltz will get a board seat Oct. 10.