CEO of Crown Castle to step down, giving victory to activist investor Elliott

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Crown Castle announced the retirement of CEO Jay Brown, coinciding with activist fund Elliott Management’s call for a new chief executive as part of its campaign for “enhanced governance and fiber-strategy improvements” at the cell tower company. Brown will be replaced on an interim basis by Anthony Melone, a Crown Castle board member, while the company’s board searches for a permanent successor.

Elliott Management launched its campaign in late November, advocating for “comprehensive leadership change” to address “long-term underperformance.” Crown Castle’s shares have declined by 13% this year, in contrast to the iShares Global REIT ETF, which is up nearly 1%. Elliott previously targeted Crown Castle in 2020 and accused the company of disregarding its input and pursuing a “value-destructive strategy.” Alongside changes in the executive suite, Elliott is pushing for bylaw modifications and a review of Crown Castle’s fiber business, potentially leading to a sale.

Crown Castle, a real estate investment trust, claims to be one of the largest communications infrastructure providers in the U.S., controlling over 40,000 cell towers and rooftop installations. The company’s stock has dropped more than 40% from its 2021 high. Elliott Management holds a $2 billion stake in Crown Castle and has engaged in previous campaigns at companies such as Twitter and Salesforce. This year, Elliott acquired a $1 billion stake in Phillips 66 and is seeking up to two board seats at the crude refining company.

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