Activist investor Carl Icahn broadens animal welfare campaign at Kroger

FILE PHOTO: Carl Icahn gives an interview on FOX Business Network's Neil Cavuto show in New York
FILE PHOTO: Billionaire activist-investor Carl Icahn gives an interview on FOX Business Network's Neil Cavuto show in New York February 11, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

March 30, 2022

(Reuters) – Kroger Co said on Tuesday Carl Icahn nominated two directors to the supermarket chain’s board, as the billionaire investor expands his campaign for corporate America to tackle environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.

A month after taking on McDonald’s Corp over the treatment of pigs, Icahn is expanding the battle beyond animal welfare to include focusing on what he calls “egregious wage gaps” between Kroger’s chief executive officer and cashiers, stock clerks and others.

The activist investor wrote a letter to Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen on Tuesday, pointing out the supermarket chain’s inability to create policies concerning animal welfare and criticizing its wage disparities.

In response to Icahn’s letter, Kroger said that it prioritizes ESG matters and the board, along with its committees, directly oversee its animal welfare strategies.

Kroger added that while it was not directly involved in raising or processing of any animals, the company has established a framework to clearly define its policies, requirement and practices, including its Animal Welfare Policy that hopes all suppliers transition away from gestation crates by 2025.

Icahn nominated Alexis Fox and Margarita Paláu-Hernández to stand for election to Kroger’s board, during the company’s 2022 annual meeting.

Fox is the co-founder of Lighter, a startup that focuses on plant-based diet, while Paláu-Hernández is the founder and chief executive at Hernandez Ventures, a private firm involved in Spanish-language media, business and real estate ventures.

The grocer said it will review the proposed nominees and present its formal recommendations.

Icahn previously made a similar push at McDonald’s in February, nominating two members to its board in an escalating fight over the treatment of pigs by the burger chain’s suppliers.

(Reporting by Ananya Mariam Rajesh and Aishwarya Nair in Bengaluru and Svea Herbst in Boston; Additional reporting by Radhika Anilkumar; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Rashmi Aich)