BOSTON, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Financial public relations firm ICR will announce on Thursday that it launched a business to advise corporate boards on governance matters and hired fund industry veteran Lyndon Park to lead it, CEO Tom Ryan said on Wednesday.
Park, 44, joins ICR and its newly created Governance Advisory Solutions practice from Dimensional Fund Advisors where he was head of global corporate governance for the Austin, Texas-based investment firm. Earlier in his career Park was a vice president with investment giant BlackRock's Investment Stewardship unit.
Park will aim to work with corporate boards on issues ranging from board composition to succession planning and what shareholders, including powerful index funds, expect from corporations in the areas of environmental, social and governance programs.
The creation of the new business signals that ICR, based in New York, is entering the fast growing business of advising corporations to protect against activist investors even before they come knocking.
Data from Lazard show that 145 activist campaigns were launched against 136 companies in the first half of 2018 alone, making them the two most active quarters ever. Elliott Management launched 17 new campaigns in the first half of 2018 and Starboard Value, Elliott and Carl Icahn accounted for nearly half of the board seats given to activist investors in the first half, Lazard data show.
ICR will be competing with firms like Sard Verbinnen & Co's Strategic Governance Advisors, co-founded by Chris Cernich, a former top executive at proxy advisor Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), and PJT Camberview, founded by Abe Friedman.
Banks also offer activism defense banking services and advice to companies, a niche market currently dominated by Evercore, Goldman Sachs, Lazard and Morgan Stanley.
Park will help boards become more proactive and effective and brings "a deep understanding of activist tactics and motivations having led engagements and determined proxy outcomes for most of the key activist, hostile takeover, contentious M&A situations and other event-driven situations in recent years while at Dimensional and BlackRock," said Phil Denning, a partner at ICR who leads the company's special situations group which oversees the new unit.
As ICR built out its business it also hired Dan McDermott, a former senior associate at ISS, and former Houlihan Lokey banker Jake Noone in the last months, Denning said. (Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss Editing by Phil Berlowitz)