Apex hedge fund to CEO: Get off your yacht!
Sandy Colen is doing his best Dan Loeb.
The chief investment officer of $1.23 billion hedge fund firm Apex Capital wrote a scathing letter on Feb. 3 to the board of business intelligence software company MicroStrategy, calling for a new CEO and various corporate changes.
But the real zinger of the letter is reminiscent of Third Point's Loeb, famous for taking on the perceived personal excesses of chief executives with his so-called poison pen.
"The recent stream of photos of Mr. Saylor's yachts in exotic locations (as posted on his Twitter feed) does little to assuage our fears that the company's senior management is not fully engaged in the day-to-day operations of the business or agonizing over inferior shareholder returns," Colen wrote in the letter in reference to company founder Michael Saylor's recent pictures of his boat.
For the record, Saylor has two pictures of a yacht in his Twitter feed. Here's one:
Saylor hasn't responded. "We decline to comment at this time," Warren Getler, an internal MicroStrategy spokesman, said when asked about Apex's criticism.
(Read more: Facebook to Become 'Yellow Pages' Equivalent: Saylor)
Colen feels strongly that MicroStrategy is undervalued.
"We are not activist shareholders per se, but the overwhelming evidence of shareholder neglect prompted us to take action and file the 13D letter with MicroStrategy," Colen said to CNBC.com in a follow up to the filing.
Apex owns 467,100 shares of MicroStrategy or 5.15 percent of the company's Class A stock and has invested in the company for two years. Its beef with MicroStrategy includes its lack of investor communications; "weak" corporate governance; and an "overcapitalized" balance sheet.
One specific change requested by Apex is to split Saylor's dual chairman and CEO role, leaving Saylor as chair, and to find a new chief executive.
"We recommend that the board conduct an extensive executive search for a CEO capable of being fully engaged with the daily business and operations of the company," the letter said.
Another is a $455 million stock buyback to take advantage of what Apex believes is a depressed valuation.
"MicroStrategy's market position and future prospects are very encouraging," the Apex letter said. "The company has a long history of innovation and remains a leader in the market for Business Intelligence software, providing what many industry analysts believe to be the best BI platform currently available."
Saylor himself is a survivor.
He founded the company in 1989 at just 24 and grew it quickly. As Fortune noted in 2012 profile, Saylor was the richest person in the Washington, D.C. area by the age of 35, worth about $15 billion.
But an accounting controversy in 2000 caused MicroStrategy's stock to collapse that year, at one point losing Saylor $6.1 billion In a single day.
But Saylor brought the business back and more recently signed on big companies like Facebook as clients. MicroStrategy provides software to crunch data and use it for other business purposes, such as making connections between the habits of customers and what they might also like to buy--leading to more targeted advertising.
(Read more: Like! Social media stocks surge on Facebook report)
Apex was founded in 1995 and uses a stock-picking strategy, focusing more on long bets than shorts. Its oldest fund, Zaxis Partners, gained 28.13 percent net of fees in 2013.
The fund has produced net annualized returns of 14.08 percent from inception in May 1995 through December 2013, according to firm marketing materials.
—By CNBC's Lawrence Delevingne. Follow him on Twitter