Activist investor sets sights on BNY Mellon

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Nelson Peltz — the activist investor known locally for battling his way onto the board at Pittsburgh’s H.J. Heinz Co. nearly a decade ago — apparently is looking to shake things up at Bank of New York Mellon.

Through the hedge fund he runs, Trian Fund Management LP, Mr. Peltz as of Friday had quietly built up a 2.5 percent stake in the New York-based custody bank, a Trian spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday.

The approximately 28.9 million shares were valued at about $1.05 billion. BNY Mellon shares closed Tuesday at $37.90, up 42 cents, valuing the stake at $1.1 billion.

Trian recently contacted BNY Mellon to say it wanted to discuss ways to “drive long-term growth and enhance shareholder value,” spokeswoman Andrea Calise said in an email Tuesday. She declined to elaborate.

BNY Mellon — formed by the 2007 takeover of Pittsburgh’s iconic Mellon Bank by the Bank of New York — has been under some pressure this year to boost its profit margin. The bank earned $2.05 billion in 2013, down about 16 percent from 2012. It reported profits of $661 million in the first quarter this year.

CEO Gerald Hassell has said he is focused on cutting expenses at the bank, which in recent weeks has laid off an undisclosed number of employees corporatewide. The move was expected to save about $100 million annually.

The bank also has sold its world headquarters building on Wall Street and is in the process of exploring the sale of its corporate trust business. BNY Mellon employs some 7,600 in Pittsburgh, with about 135 working for corporate trust.

“Trian is a respected investment firm,” BNY Mellon spokesman Kevin Heine said in a email Tuesday. “We look forward to engaging with them as we do all our investors.”

At Heinz, which was sold last year to an investment group that included Warren Buffett, some observers credited Mr. Peltz with helping the ketchup king fine tune its operations.

Patricia Sabatini: or 412-263-3066.

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