Yesterday we reported that some Nokia shareholders were offering a Plan B for the company, and even wrote a lengthy list of suggestions. The group of nine young Nokia shareholders was planning to challenge the company's strategy and partnership with Microsoft in the next Annual General Meeting scheduled for May 3, 2011. After 36 hours, however, the group has given up.
The nine wanted to seriously change the current management, which included getting the expulsion of Nokia CEO Stephen Elop. They argued that Nokia should maintain ownership and control of the software layer of its products because software is where innovation, differentiation, and shareholder value can most easily be created. They also wanted a revamp in hiring strategy, the elimination of outdated and bureaucratic R&D practices, and at all cost avoid becoming "a poorly differentiated OEM."
All of that has now gone out the window. They cited two reasons: by the time their plan even came to fruition, most of the talented software developers at Nokia would already be gone, and the institutional investors who hold most of Nokia stock have told them that their legal fiduciary responsibility bars them from going along with an activist plan. You can read the full exit decision, aptly titled Calling it quits, below:
After reviewing the feedback we've received from investors on our Plan B, we have decided not to carry on with it.
In the last 36 hours we were contacted by hundreds of individual shareholders (owning anywhere from 10 to 400,000 Nokia shares) pledging to support us by proxy voting or by personally attending the AGM.
Nevertheless, the responses that we received from institutional investors were not encouraging. These institutions have a fiduciary responsibility to their customers and are legally bared from supporting radical initiatives like seating a bunch of kids on the board of directors. If they do not agree with Nokia's plans, they are better off simply divesting and putting their money in other companies that better fit their investing strategy (which is exactly what they have been doing).
We also realized that by the time our Plan B would kick in, most remaining software talent in Nokia would have already left the company, so it would be really an uphill battle to pick up things from there.