Avis Budget Defends 'Qualified' Board As Largest Investor Seeks More Seats

Shares of Avis Budget Group (CAR) are higher in morning trading after the company's largest shareholder said it would seek five total seats on the car rental company's board. The investor, which currently holds two seats on Avis' board, is urging management to change its strategy to boost the stock's value.

ACTIVIST SEEKING MORE BOARD SEATS: SRS Investment Management, which holds a 14.7% stake in Avis Budget Group's voting shares and another 16% in derivatives, is looking to shake-up the company's board of directors by seeking three more board seats, increasing several years of tension between the two over how to boost the stock's value. The $5B New York investment fund currently has two members it appointed to the 12-person board under a 2016 deal. SRS, which isn't typically an activist investor, told The Wall Street Journal that it made "made reasonable requests about the changes and its ownership level, but it wasn't willing to sign a three-year agreement to not fight." SRS, which has spent two years calling for change at Avis, including the exploration of strategic alternatives, first disclosed its position in 2010. In addition to calling for five total board seats, Reuters reported that SRS is also demanding the hiring of a new chief financial officer as well as linking management compensation with performance targets.

AVIS RESPONSE: In a statement, Avis said it has had an "ongoing dialogue and cooperative relationship" with SRS and that it "welcomes the constructive input" of its stockholders. However, the company said it was "disappointed" that it will be involved in a "costly and distracting" proxy fight. Lead independent director Leonard Coleman said that "Avis Budget Group's highly qualified Board has an appropriate mix of skills and experiences, in-depth company knowledge, relevant expertise across a wide range of industries, and extensive management experience."

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