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Cramer walks back negative Newell call after proxy fight ends, gives blessing to buy

Key Points
  • "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer reviews the prospects at Newell Brands after a proxy fight with Carl Icahn and Starboard Value ends peacefully.
  • Cramer blesses buying the stock for speculation on its new-and-improved turnaround story.
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After proxy fight, Cramer walks back negative Newell call

What a difference a week makes. Last Monday, CNBC's Jim Cramer told homegamers to stay away from the stock of Newell Brands, a household products maker embroiled in a proxy fight.

With Wall Street legend Carl Icahn on one side pushing for board seats and Jeff Smith's Starboard Value on the other demanding an entirely new board of directors, Newell's situation made its stock "the ultimate battleground," Cramer said.

"Even though both Carl Icahn and the guys at Starboard [are] very smart, I told you that this seemed like a no-win situation to me," the "Mad Money" host reflected on Monday. "[But] the facts have changed, and like the late, great John Maynard Keynes, when the facts change, I change my mind."

On Monday, Newell Brands and Starboard Value came to an agreement with Icahn's approval, ending the proxy fight.

Per the deal, Newell said it would appoint two new independent directors to its board in place of Icahn's more controversial nominees and appoint a third Starboard-backed candidate.

"The stock market didn't seem to care about this development," Cramer said. "I thought it was a game-changer."

With Starboard back in the fold with some "superb" new directors, Cramer felt "more confident in Newell's ability to turn itself around," adding that "the stock might actually be worth buying."

Cramer argued that a peaceful end to the proxy fight made all the difference for Starboard. Had the contest ended badly, Starboard's three nominees would have had a more difficult time encouraging Newell's 11-person board to change its ways, he said.

Now, the Starboard-aligned directors will feel more empowered to suggest the kinds of changes Starboard has successfully made at Darden Restaurants and Marvell Technology, Cramer said.

The "Mad Money" host also liked the new board members, saying Victoria's Secret vet Bridget Ryan Berman would help bolster Newell's direct-to-consumer business and former Starbucks executive Geraldo Lopez could help the company maneuver selling some of its segments.

"Perhaps most important, now that Newell Brands is no longer embroiled in a bitter, high-profile proxy fight, they can actually focus on turning things around," Cramer said.

"Newell still has a ragged mix of under-managed brands [and] they still need to unload many of them to raise $10 billion as part of their asset sale plan," he continued. "They still need to do everything they can to improve efficiency."

Starboard's appointees also add a new layer of accountability to Newell CEO Mike Polk's role, Cramer said. If Polk can't deliver now, Starboard can bring in someone new.

"Bottom line? I had no interest in Newell when it was stuck in a vicious proxy fight, and I told you anyone who won this fight was likely to experience only a Pyrrhic victory. I guess they were paying attention because now Newell's made peace with the activist investors at Starboard and that makes this a very different story," the "Mad Money" host said.

"That's why you now have my blessing to buy the stock," Cramer continued. "Yes, Starboard is that good, and I truly believe Polk will take heed of their advice with the understanding that if he doesn't, he's most likely gone. That could be a win-win situation developing here: Polk succeeds [and] the stock goes higher. If he fails, Starboard will likely have a hand in picking a very good successor."

WATCH: Cramer's new call on Newell after end of proxy fight

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Cramer walks back negative Newell call after proxy fight ends, gives blessing to buy

Disclosure: Cramer's charitable trust owns shares of Darden Restaurants.

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