August 9, 2019 / 10:32 PM / in 6 months

Hedge fund Elliott hires Goldman partner Barg as head of corporate engagement

BOSTON (Reuters) - Elliott Management, one of the world’s busiest activist investors, has hired a Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) partner as its head of corporate engagement as the hedge fund continues to push companies around the globe to perform better.

Steven Barg spent nearly a decade at Goldman and most recently defended corporations against hedge funds like Elliott as the investment bank’s global head of activism and shareholder advisory.

Three sources confirmed the hiring on Friday afternoon. Elliott declined to comment; Goldman did not respond to requests for comment, and Barg could not be reached for comment.

As a veteran banker, Barg will bring capital markets expertise plus a deep knowledge of advising companies who have faced pressure from activists.

He spent part of his career in Asia and was co-head of Asian Equity Capital Markets for Goldman. Recently he was advising Sony Corp (6758.T) as it faces pressure from U.S. hedge fund Third Point to spin off its semiconductor unit.

For Elliott the hiring of Barg, one of Wall Street’s most prominent bankers, underscores the firm’s growing interest in not only pushing independent companies to perform better but also making bids to take some corporations private.

The news of Barg’s hire was first reported by Bloomberg.

Elliott, which oversees $35 billion in assets, is considered among the industry’s most successful activist investors having waged campaigns at firms including EBay Inc(EBAY.O), software firm SAP and Telecom Italia(TLIT.MI).

In the first six months of 2019, Elliott outspent all rivals and committed $3.4 billion in new capital, making investments in pharmaceutical and life sciences company Bayer AG (BAYGn.DE) and SAP in Germany among others.

Recently Elliott has also expanded its reach into private equity investing by making bids for companies like bookseller Barnes & Noble and Athenahealth.

At Elliott, Barg will lead a executives including Christine O’Brien, head of investment stewardship, and Geoffrey Sorbello, a former Houlihan Lokey banker who works on the firm’s activist campaigns.

Defending corporations against activist hedge funds like Elliott and rivals like Third Point and Pershing Square Capital Management has become big business on Wall Street with many banks beefing up their activism defense practices.

Last week Bank of America Corp hired former Evercore Inc. banker to become its global head of activism defense.

Roughly a year ago Goldman appointed Pete Michelsen and David Dubner to be co-heads of activism and shareholder advisory for the Americas while Barg headed global shareholder activism defense.

Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; editing by Diane Craft and Cynthia Osterman

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