A Bulldog in Ferragamo


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Luxury retail chain Saks Fifth Avenue held its annual meeting June 1 and at the gathering – just as in every annual meeting since 2002 – it included a proposal by the diminutive but outspoken shareholder advocate, Evelyn Y. Davis.

Of course, this meant long, colorful discussions about price points, heel heights and Dolce & Gabbana purses. But not everyone is a fan. Ms. Davis, a resident of Washington, DC who owns shares in almost 100 companies, is well known for lengthening annual meetings with her nitty-gritty questions and flirtatious verbal jousting with CEOs. She habitually likes to ask retail executives to guess the designer label of her suits, has told the CEO of Procter & Gamble that it spends too much money on lawyers (“Lawyers are like taxi drivers, they don’t take you directly to your destination!”), and once famously wore a bathing suit to an annual meeting.

Now in her early 80s, Ms. Davis dresses more professionally and her shareholder demands are equally sophisticated. At Saks, she submitted a proposal that sought the cumulative voting in the election of its directors. She has submitted this same proposal at Saks’ annual meeting for 10 years, without success. And once again she fell short, with a preliminary count of 21 percent shares voting for the proposal this year.

But she is not discouraged. Ms. Davis attended Saks’ annual meeting, and I wish I were there. She delivered in classic, Evelyn Y. style, quizzing CEO Stephen Sadove about the make of her suit (he correctly identified it as Akris Punto) and made specific demands that Saks carry more low-heeled, square-toed shoes. When she was finally done with her questions, Ms. Davis called the motion to adjourn.

I had the pleasure of attending several meetings where Evelyn Y. Davis seized control of the floor, and while many shareholders grow impatient with her dogged questioning, she is there to serve their interests.

And Ms. Davis, a Holocaust survivor, has served their interest well. Several companies, including Macy’s, Merck and Starwood Hotels, have changed policies based on Ms. Davis’ tenacious pursuit of better corporate governance. So what if she adds 45 minutes to a corporate meeting? If the shareholders are only there for the free breakfast, maybe they should just stay home.

Here’s one person who hopes she keeps them coming.

Lisa Biank Fasig
Lisa leads the creation of editorials and feature stories for COLLOQUY and oversees the work of contributing editors and writers. With 18 years of reporting experience, most in business and specifically consumer behavior, she is highly skilled at researching data and teasing out the trends. A background in graphic design enables her to see ideas in three dimensions and tell the story visually.


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