Marathon Dances to Corp Raider’s Tune, Former CEO Dissents

We always find it distressing when companies begin to tap dance to please corporate raiders. That is apparently what is now happening at Marathon Petroleum, owner of MarkWest Energy. We don’t pretend to fully understand what’s happening (this is all high finance stuff), but our impression is that Marathon is “dropping down” certain assets (i.e. moved from one legal corporate entity to another) more quickly than it otherwise would have, due to pressure on the company from Elliott Management, a so-called activist investor in the company. “Activist investor” is what used to be called “corporate raider” 25 years ago, which are companies or people who invest just enough in a company to control it, forcing the company to shed assets and fire people in order to boost the stock price–just to turn around and sell and make a quick buck. Apparently Elliott wants Marathon to a) move assets around from one company to another PDQ, and b) consider spinning out Speedway into its own company, or selling it. Speedway, you may or may not know, is Marathon’s retail gas filling station business. Speedway bought out and merged in the old Hess filling stations (see Marathon Petroleum Buys the Hess Truck! What Will We Do for Xmas?). Former MarkWest Energy CEO John Fox is none too happy about these machinations. Fox owns a bunch of Marathon stock and he issued a press release yesterday to pressure Marathon’s current leaders into slowing down and not being so eager to tap dance to Elliott’s tune…

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