October 18, 2016 / 12:47 PM / 2 years ago

Stewart Information strikes deal with two activist investors

(Reuters) - Title insurer Stewart Information Services Corp (STC.N) said on Tuesday it would add four new directors to its board in a deal with activist investor Starboard Value LP.

The company also struck a deal with another shareholder, Foundation Asset Management LP, which agreed to drop its pursuit of a special shareholder meeting.

Stewart’s announcement on Tuesday follows a Reuters report last month that said Stewart and Starboard were nearing an agreement to replace members of the company’s board.

As part of the settlement with Starboard, Stewart Information’s chief executive, Matthew Morris, and a new independent director, Clifford Press, will be appointed to the board, effective immediately, the company said.

Morris and Press will replace Malcolm Morris and Stewart Morris, two cousins and members of the company’s founding family who served as co-CEOs from 2000 to November 2011. CEO Matthew Morris is Malcolm’s son.

“The enhancements announced today will help us improve Stewart’s corporate governance structure for the benefit of all shareholders, allowing us to create a truly independent Board in-line with best practices,” Stewart’s Chairman Thomas Apel said in a statement.

In addition, Stewart Information will appoint two other new independent directors who will replace current board members Laurie Moore-Moore and Frank Keating.

The company’s main title insurance business guarantees property owners have title to their property and can legally transfer it in the event of a sale.

Stewart’s largest shareholder is Starboard, with a 9.9 percent stake, and its fourth largest is Foundation, which has a 5.6 percent holding. The company has seen a steady flow of activist investors, with Bulldog Investors and Basswood Capital also in the top 10 shareholders list.

Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Frances Kerry

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