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Peltz escalates campaign to break up DuPont with board nominees

Nelson Peltz
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Nelson Peltz

Activist investor Nelson Peltz, one of DuPont's largest shareholders, stepped up his fight to break up the industrial conglomerate, as his Trian Fund nominated himself and three other members to the board.

Trian Fund Management, which Peltz heads, said on Thursday that investment funds it manages own 24.3 million DuPont shares worth about $1.8 billion. That is a 2.68 percent stake.

"DuPont board has not held management accountable for repeatedly missing promised revenue and earnings targets," Trian said in a statement.

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DuPont responded in a statement that its board would review Trian's director nominees and "make a recommendation that is in the best interest of all shareholders."

In defense, DuPont pointed to its market-beating stock returns under its leadership team since the end of 2008 and said its highly qualified directors are revamping the company. It has also noted ongoing cost cuts.

In September, Trian sent a letter to DuPont urging a breakup, saying efforts already under way to shed some of the company's businesses were not enough to fix its "underperformance."

Peltz has pushed DuPont to separate its agriculture, nutrition and health, and industrial biosciences units from those with strong cash flows but are more volatile.

DuPont, however, cites "competitive advantages" in keeping its businesses together, with the combined power of its science platform, global scale, market access and brand.

"Despite numerous efforts to engage constructively, including multiple calls and meetings with our CEO, CFO and lead independent director, Trian has chosen this path with the potential to disrupt our company at a key stage of execution against our plan," DuPont said on Thursday.

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Trian's nominees include John Myers, Arthur Winkleblack and Robert Zatta for election to the DuPont board at the 2015 annual general meeting.

Zatta has been acting CEO of specialty chemicals maker Rockwood Holdings since July 2014 and Winkleblack is on the board of consumer goods maker Church & Dwight and RTI International Metals. Myers is CEO of GE Asset Management, a General Electric subsidiary.

Trian, founded by Peltz, Peter May and Garden in 2005, aggressively presses for change at companies it invests in. Last year, Peltz renewed his crusade to convince PepsiCo to spin off its slow-growing beverage business from its flourishing snacks division.

DuPont's shares have risen about 13 percent since Trian sent the letter in September, to $74.53 at Thursday's close.