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Activists' war chests at record. How to ride them

Barry Rosenstein
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Barry Rosenstein's Jana Partners a 7.2 percent stake in ConAgra Foods on Thursday and planned to nominate directors to the food-maker's board, the latest of many moves this year by activists, who have more money under management and bigger ambitions than ever before.

Assets under management by hedge funds with an activist bent jumped $30 billion to a record $120 billion last year, according to S&P Capital IQ.

Already this year, 90 proxy fights—shareholder votes for actions such as board seats and new corporate governance plans—have been taken up or are scheduled to be heard against U.S. companies at their annual meetings this year, already equal to the amount of disputes in all of 2014 and 2013, according to FactSet.

So how can regular investors capitalize on the activist boom?

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