It's no longer an insult to be called an activist investor.
Once painted as greedy corporate raiders, they would amass large stakes in a company and, through brute force, push for changes in the company's leadership and business practices. They reveled in their image of attacking the fortress of corporate America. Now, some three decades later, their efforts have become more sophisticated and they are often seen as a good thing, shaking up companies too entrenched in their ways.
The beneficiaries of this new attitude are activist hedge fund managers like David Einhorn and Daniel S. Loeb, who last year rattled the corporate boards of some of America's biggest and best-known companies. They are beginning the new year with swelling coffers and more public support than ever before.
(Read more: 2014 hedge fund predictions)