There's a proxy battle brewing at mobile software maker Openwave Systems
The election platform rests on the idea that the current board is not acting with the best interests of shareholders at heart. Harbinger wants to focus Openwave's efforts on just its "core" products -- presumably items like the Mobile Browser and SMS messaging software -- and phase out less significant product lines to reduce costs. This is meant to kick-start a reduction in quarterly operating expenses, down to about $50 million. That's about a 30% cost reduction from today's levels. A $200 million share repurchase program would follow, reducing the number of shares outstanding by about 25%.
In response to the filing, Openwave said that it "supports open communications with its stockholders and welcomes input toward the goal of improving stockholder value." The release also noted that the current board is already doing what it can to protect shareholder interests, and will respond to the suggested changes after a thorough review.
The existing board is hardly stocked with nobodies. The chairman of the board also sits on the boards of health-care information handler IMS Health and privately held Nielsen Media Research, a.k.a. the TV ratings people. Another member is a former CEO of LM Ericsson
Then there's the retired president of computer systems at Sun Microsystems
So how about the two chosen usurpers? James Zucco boasts 25 years of "executive experience in the software and telecommunications industries," including high-level executive stints at MCI and AT&T
Andrew Breen has less of an industry background, never having served above the director level. The experience he does have is rather relevant to Openwave's business, though, and includes a post at Palm overseeing its wireless data services group, as well as a short stretch on Sun's JavaSoft Advisory Board. He is also a certified sommelier, which comes in handy for office parties. But I digress.
The candidates seem to have enough experience and drive to make an impact beyond the already stated goals. Would they be an upgrade to the current slate, or merely a couple of workaday replacements? That's harder to say for sure. But it's all academic until the shareholders vote on the matter, so we'll have to hold our breath until Jan. 17. Harbinger Capital does control a hefty 10.6% stake in Openwave, which makes it one of the largest shareholders, so the rebel slate needs only a modicum of outside support. Stay tuned.
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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here, but he used to work for Nielsen Media Research. Hi, guys! You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure is always worth fighting for.