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Activist investor Bluebell takes aim at BlackRock and calls for CEO Fink to be ousted

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By Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Greg Roumeliotis

(RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Activist small investor Bluebell Capital Partners is targeting BlackRock and wants to replace longtime CEO Larry Fink, criticizing the world’s largest asset manager as inconsistent in its focus on environmental, social and corporate governance issues ( ESG).

Bluebell, with assets of about $250 million, said BlackRock, which invests more than $8 trillion, and Fink have “alienated clients and attracted an unwanted level of negative publicity” with the firm’s ESG strategy.

London-based Bluebell’s criticisms are the opposite of recent allegations by some US lawmakers and state officials that BlackRock and Fink are setting sustainability goals before delivering returns. According to Bluebell, BlackRock is not going far enough in pursuing its ESG goals and is not distancing itself from investments in fossil fuels, including coal.

Bluebell partners Giuseppe Bivona and Marco Taricco wrote on Nov. 10 to Fink, who regularly advises world leaders and has taken a high-profile role in advocating for ESG investing, that they want to see someone else on the job.

The hedge fund also wants BlackRock to “initiate a strategic review of (its) ESG stance” and adopt other governance changes.

Bluebell owns 0.01% of BlackRock, which has a market cap of $106.7 billion, said one person familiar with the stakes.

Bluebell is known for campaigning against major companies with very small investments, including one at the Belgian chemical company Solvay where he wanted the board to address an environmental issue at its factory in Rosignano, Italy.

Bluebell said that BlackRock failed to support its requests.

“Over the past 18 months, Bluebell has conducted a number of campaigns to advance its climate and governance agenda,” said a BlackRock spokesperson. “BlackRock Investment Stewardship did not support their campaigns as we did not consider them to be in the best economic interest of our clients.”

Bluebell was founded in 2019 and has taken on companies like GlaxoSmithKline, Glencore, Vivendi and Danone, where it engineered the ouster of former CEO Emmanuel Faber.

“Fink clearly has political ambitions because it’s not his job, as CEO of BlackRock, to dictate energy policy,” Bivona told RockedBuzz via Reuters in an interview.

Fink’s name has been frequently floated as a possible cabinet member in Washington, and company executives are frequently consulted by policy makers.

Though Bluebell said BlackRock’s positions hurt it with clients, the company reportedly garnered $250 billion in net new business in the first three quarters of 2022.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Bluebell’s campaign at BlackRock.

Fink writes an annual letter to CEOs in January and urged companies to look beyond profits.

BlackRock is still Bluebell’s highest profile target, coming at a time when more investors are paying attention to ESG factors.

Last week, Florida’s chief financial officer said his department would withdraw $2 billion from its BlackRock-managed assets, the largest such divestment by a state averse to the asset manager’s ESG policies.

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss, Carolina Mandl and Greg Roumeliotis in New York, Simon Jessop in London and Ananya Mariam Rajesh and Anirban Chakroborti in Bangalore; Editing by David Gregorio and Leslie Adler)