Economy

Exxon Shares Jump as Activist Investor Jeff Ubben Joins the Board

Jessica Rinaldi | Reuters
  • Activist investor Jeff Ubben has joined Exxon Mobil's board of directors, the company said Monday.
  • Exxon shares jumped 4% after CNBC's David Faber first reported the shake-up.
  • Mike Angelakis, chairman and chief executive officer of Atairos and former CFO of Comcast, is also joining the oil giant's board.

Exxon Mobil announced two board seat changes Monday, including activist investor and ESG proponent Jeff Ubben, in a sign that the company is confronting its uncertain future as the world moves toward cleaner energy and as investors shy away from oil stocks.

Exxon said the other new board member is Mike Angelakis, chairman and chief executive officer of Atairos and former CFO of Comcast.

Exxon shares jumped 4.7% after CNBC's David Faber first reported the shake-up. Ultimately, the stock finished the session 3.7% higher.

The moves come as Exxon has faced pressure from shareholders to reshuffle its board amid the company's languishing stock price. Exxon's investor day is Wednesday.

"We welcome these new directors as part of our ongoing board refreshment, which builds on the diverse global business experience of our current members," Chairman and CEO Darren Wood said in a statement. "Their contributions will be valued as ExxonMobil advances plans to increase shareholder value by responsibly providing needed energy while playing a leadership role in the energy transition."

The board changes come after Exxon announced a new director in February, saying it expected "to take further action in the near term."

D.E. Shaw Group, which has been pushing Exxon for changes, said it supports the latest board changes.

Ubben founded Inclusive Capital Partners in 2020 after stepping away from ValueAct, the firm he founded in 2000. In his last few years at the firm, he oversaw ValueAct's Spring Fund, which was focused on sustainable investing.

Ubben is expected to become a significant Exxon shareholder over time, according to the sources. Ubben is no stranger to investing in oil and gas companies. While at ValueAct he took a stake in BP, saying traditional energy companies can belong in ESG portfolios.

Exxon has come under fire for failing to invest in the future of energy. Earlier this year, the company announced plans to invest $3 billion in carbon capture and other emissions-cutting technology. 

In December, then newly formed activist investor group Engine No. 1 announced plans to seek four Exxon board seats. The group, which includes founders from activist hedge funds including Partner Fund Management and Jana Partners, won the support of California pension giant CALSTRS.

Following Exxon's February announcement that former Petronas CEO Tan Sri Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin would join the board, Engine No. 1 said the changes didn't go far enough. The group reiterated this sentiment following Monday's announcement.

"While ExxonMobil has now conceded the need for board change, what is missing are directors with diverse track records of success in the energy industry who can position the Company for success in a changing world," Engine No. 1 said. "We remain confident our nominees bring the right experience and skills to help put ExxonMobil on a path to sustainable, long-term value creation for the benefit of all shareholders."

Shares of Exxon are up 32% this year.

Disclosure: CNBC is owned by Comcast's NBCUniversal unit.

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