UPDATE 1-Proxy solicitor Morrow Sodali hires Schulman from MacKenzie

(Adds leadership changes at MacKenzie)

BOSTON/NEW YORK, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Proxy solicitor Morrow Sodali this week hired Paul Schulman from rival MacKenzie Partners, a prominent shakeup in the tight-knit world of vote-counting for corporate battles.

Schulman will be co-head of Mergers & Acquisitions, Activism and Contested Situations along with Michael Verrechia, a Morrow veteran, according to his LinkedIn profile and two sources who could not speak publicly about the personnel matter.

A spokeswoman for Morrow, which worked with Newell Brands during its fight with activist investor Starboard and dining chain Luby’s when it was targeted by Bandera Partners, was not immediately available for comment.

MacKenzie on Wednesday announced changes in its top ranks.

Schulman spent the last decade steeped in corporate battles at MacKenzie where he was widely seen as one of founder Dan Burch’s top two lieutenants. Alongside Burch, Schulman worked on corporate fights at Procter & Gamble, SandRidge Energy and Dell among others. He resigned on Tuesday.

Separately, Charles Koons, who had been a managing director for Activism & Contested Situations at Morrow Sodali, resigned from Morrow last week to move to another position, two sources said. Koons declined to comment.

MacKenzie also said that Robert Marese, a managing director who has been with the firm for 26 years, has been named president. Lawrence Dennedy, who had been president, will become vice chairman, the firm said in a release.

Last year was the biggest on record for campaigns by new activist investors as newcomers joined seasoned veterans like Nelson Peltz, Daniel Loeb, Barry Rosenstein, Jeffrey Smith, Jesse Cohn and William Ackman in pressing for changes at corporations.

The number of firms targeted decreased in 2019, but activism is fast becoming a tool for investment managers to help make their bets more valuable over time, widening the playing field for firms like Morrow, MacKenzie and competitors Innisfree and Okapi Partners, which offer shareholder intelligence, strategic advice and solicitation services to companies. (Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by David Gregorio and Leslie Adler)