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Hedge fund Barington proceeds with proxy contest at OMNOVA: filing

Hedge fund Barington proceeds with proxy contest at OMNOVA: filing

Svea Herbst-Bayliss

Hedge fund Barington Capital Group filed preliminary proxy statements with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and is proceeding with a proxy contest to elect three alternative directors to the board of OMNOVA Solutions, the documents show.

New York-based Barington, which controls 2 percent of Beachwood, Ohio-based OMNOVA , a maker of specialty chemicals, nominated its slate in December and filed documents with the SEC late on Tuesday.

The hedge fund said in the documents that it is moving ahead largely because of the company’s poor stock price performance. “The Company’s share price performance has, in our opinion, been disastrous for shareholders,” it said, noting that it has lagged dramatically during CEO Kevin McMullen’s more than 14-year tenure.

The company’s share price has risen 39.6 percent during McMullen’s tenure, compared with a 105.6 percent climb for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. The Standard & Poor’s Chemicals Index rose 229.3 during the same time.

Barington, an activist fund, previously made headlines by proposing that Darden Restaurants Inc, the parent of Olive Garden and Red Lobster, split itself.

The fund in December said its slate included Joseph Gingo, chief executive of plastics compounds and resins maker A. Schulman, former McKinsey & Company partner Javier Perez and Barington Chief Executive James Mitarotonda.

He and another Barington representative were elected to the board of Ebix Inc, which supplies software to insurers, earlier this month and the company’s stock price has climbed 47 percent since the hedge fund first publicly disclosed its position in the company in November.

OMNOVA was trading at $7.08, off 1.1 percent, on Wednesday.