Why Nelson Peltz Wants P.&G. to See Him as a ‘Constructivist’

On Monday, he made his latest play — starting what has been described as the biggest proxy contest in history — by seeking a seat on the board of Procter & Gamble.

And true to form, Mr. Peltz, whose asset management firm is called Trian Partners, couched his effort as friendly. On the first page of a 22-page presentation, he listed a series of bullet points about “what Trian is not pushing for.” Among them: “NOT advocating for the breakup of the Company; NOT suggesting that the C.E.O. be replaced; NOT seeking to replace directors.”

And yet, chief executives should take note that Mr. Peltz’s playbook is often the same: He makes a large, multibillion-dollar investment in a company and tells those in management that he supports them. He then tells them that he wants to meet with them because he has a couple of suggestions, some tweaks here and there. Then he shows up with a “white paper,” a thick deck of charts and numbers about changes he would like to see made. When the company fails to make the changes or take his suggestions seriously, he seeks to oust the chief executive or break up the company.

He has followed this playbook with various degrees of success over several decades on Wall Street.

His most recent influence can be seen at General Electric, where he was invited to make a $2.5 billion investment in the company as a sort of seal of approval in 2015. At the time, his firm declared, “Trian believes G.E. is executing a bold transformation that will generate attractive stockholder returns in the years ahead as the company reshapes its portfolio from a broad conglomerate.”

Two years later, Jeffrey R. Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric and a man whom Trian repeatedly called a “friend,” found himself announcing that he would be “retiring” from the company — just after G.E. missed its numbers.

Part of Mr. Peltz’s charm is that, unlike some other activists, he shuns using huge leverage, and he does not demand big…

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