Superior investor touts board slate in proxy fight

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GAMCO Asset Management Inc., the largest institutional shareholder of aluminum wheel supplier Superior Industries International Inc., today unveiled its slate of board nominees it wants shareholders to elect at Superior’s annual meeting next month.

GAMCO, which has an 8.5 percent equity stake in Superior, said in a statement that it has “heightened concerns” that Superior’s current seven-member board “lacks the objectivity and commitment necessary to act in the best interests of shareholders.” GAMCO said its nominees will bring a fresh perspective to the boardroom with their financial expertise.

Donald Stebbins, the former Visteon CEO, took over as Superior’s CEO on May 5 after the company spent several months searching for a new top executive.

“GAMCO believes having shareholder representatives on the board with knowledge of the financial markets can serve as training wheels to help keep the management and board focused as the company moves forward with its new management team,” George Maldonado, GAMCO’s director of proxy voting services, said in an interview.

The nominees are:

• Walter Schenker, 67, founder of MAZ Capital Advisors, which manages a corporate hedge fund. Schenker followed the auto parts industry as an analyst for several brokerage firms, including Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, during the 1970s and 1980s.

• Philip Blazek, 46, president of Special Diversified Opportunities Inc., a former biotechnology company that sold its life science business assets in 2013. From 2008 to 2012, Blazek was CEO of Blazek Crow Holdings Capital.

• Ryan Morris, 29, managing member of Meson Capital Partners, a San Francisco investment partnership he founded in 2009. Morris is on the boards of several companies, including AC/DC motor controller supplier Sevcon Inc.

GAMCO, in its statement, noted Superior’s total return for shareholders, as of last month, was minus 14 percent over the last 10 years while the S&P 500 rose 72 percent.

GAMCO added, “Our nominees do not have any specific plans for the company and, if elected, will review objectively all opportunities to enhance value for shareholders.”

Superior, of Van Nuys, Calif., said in a statement Tuesday that the proxy fight is “needless, costly and distracting.” The meeting is set for Aug. 15. 

Superior said GAMCO’s nominees are investment management professionals without executive-level manufacturing or automotive industry experience. GAMCO’s picks include a renomination of one of its choices, Schenker, who was rejected by Superior’s board last year. GAMCO is also known on Wall Street as the Gabelli Funds. 

Superior ranks No. 69 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 suppliers in North America with $790 million in parts sales to automakers in 2013. The company's shares fell 3 cents today to close $20.48.

You can reach Vince Bond Jr. at vbond@crain.com. -- Follow Vince on Twitter


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