What happened

Shares of Ziopharm Oncology (NASDAQ:ZIOP) were soaring 11.8% as of 11:45 a.m. EST on Friday. The nice gain came after the company announced the election of Robert Postma to its board of directors. The addition expanded Ziopharm's board from eight members to nine.

So what

The election of new board members doesn't usually provide a catalyst for a biotech stock. What's different in this case?

Conference table and chairs

Image source: Getty Images.

Postma is the founder of WaterMill Asset Management. In December, WaterMill added two of its preferred candidates to the biotech's board. It also managed to oust Scott Tarriff, who had been the board chairman since 2018, and pressure two other board members to resign. 

At that time, Postma received enough votes from shareholders to also join Ziopharm's board. But the size of the board was capped at eight members. Today's announcement of the expansion of the number of members and Postma's election reflects yet another victory by WaterMill to influence the direction of the biotech.

Ziopharm CEO Laurence Cooper struck a diplomatic tone: "We will benefit from having additional shareholder guidance on the Board. Bob is a respected voice, and his counsel will help in directing the Company's strategies."

Now what

Today's news marks the end of an ugly battle between Ziopharm's previous board members and WaterMill. It remains to be seen in which direction the activist investment firm will try to take Ziopharm.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.