Nelson Peltz, one of the world’s most feared activist investors, is raising a £1bn warchest that he will use to push for strategic and boardroom changes at a leading blue-chip British company.
Sky News has learnt that Mr Peltz, whose vehicle Trian Partners has held stakes in American corporate giants including General Electric and Procter & Gamble, is plotting to launch a listed fund in London later this year.
Mr Peltz and a number of his senior executives are understood to have held a series of exploratory talks in the City with prospective investors in recent weeks.
Numis Securities, the investment bank, is leading the fundraising on Trian’s behalf, sources said.
Mr Peltz’s plans to establish a London-based fund will return him to prominence in the City more than eight years after he played a pivotal role in the controversial takeover of Cadbury, the chocolate maker, by Kraft Foods of the UK.
A formal launch of his new vehicle – known as Trian I – is not expected until later this year, and sources cautioned that it could opt to deploy its financial firepower in continental Europe rather than the UK.
However, Mr Peltz is said to have watched a growing wave of activism in corporate Britain with close interest in recent months.
FTSE-100 companies which have been targeted by activists this year include: Barclays, which is facing calls by Edward Bramson’s Sherborne Investors to shrink parts of its investment banking operations; Whitbread, which has confirmed plans to demerge its Costa Coffee division into a separately listed company; Shire, the pharmaceuticals company now in talks to be taken over by Japan’s Takeda; and Hammerson, the property giant under pressure following an aborted merger with Klepierre, a French rival.
In the last few days, Premier Foods, the owner of Mr Kipling cakes and Angel Delight, has been forced onto the defensive by a move from Hong Kong-based Oasis Management to oust its chief executive.
Aggressive forms of activist investment have long been a feature of the US corporate scene, but have taken root in Britain much more recently.
City sources speculated that companies including Smiths Group, the industrial conglomerate which is in discussions about a combination of its medical division with a US rival, and BT Group could be among the new targets for an investor such as Trian.
Along with the likes of Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square and Elliott Associates, Mr Peltz possesses a name guaranteed to instil a sense of profound anxiety into blue-chip boardrooms.
Trian frequently pushes companies in which it builds stakes to agree to its representatives taking board seats.
At P&G, the owner of Gillette shaving products and Ariel detergents, Mr Peltz fought a bitter proxy fight before eventually becoming a director.
Earlier this month, he said his proposal for reorganising P&G, one of the world’s biggest consumer goods groups, was “under very serious consideration”.
Trian has taken stakes in British-based companies on previous occasions.
In addition to its Cadbury shareholding, it has also been an investor in Intercontinental Hotels Group, the Holiday Inn owner, although it reduced its stake to less than 1% as long ago as 2013.
A Trian spokeswoman could not be reached for comment on Wednesday morning, while Numis declined to comment.