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Starboard Ups Bristol-Myers Stake Ahead of Vote on Celgene Deal

Xconomy New York — 

Activist hedge fund Starboard Value has boosted its stake in Bristol-Myers Squibb and nominated five candidates to serve on the pharmaceutical giant’s board of directors.

Bristol-Myers (NYSE: BMY) disclosed Starboard’s actions in a regulatory filing Wednesday. They come ahead of a shareholder vote to approve Bristol’s $74 billion proposed buyout of Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG). The deal needs approval from shareholders of both companies; Bristol has scheduled an April 12 meeting for its vote.

The Bristol document shows that Starboard now owns 1 million shares of the pharmaceutical company, most of which were acquired on Jan. 31. That’s less than 1 percent of Bristol’s outstanding shares. Bristol says in the filing it has met with the hedge fund “on multiple occasions” but does not elaborate on the nature of the discussions.

Starboard has not said whether it opposes Bristol’s Celgene acquisition. But the hedge fund has become known for aggressively pressing for corporate changes at its portfolio companies. Its targets in recent years have included Internet services company Yahoo, discount retailer Dollar Tree (NASDAQ: DLTR), and restaurant company Darden Restaurants (NYSE: DRI).

Following the disclosure of Starboard’s moves Wednesday, shares of both Bristol and Celgene hovered close to their respective Tuesday closing prices, $51.16 for Bristol and $90.69 for Celgene.