The founder and Chairman of activist investment firm Casablanca Capital, Donald Drapkin, has died aged 67 after sustaining a brain injury skiing in Colorado, several media reported Monday.
Drapkin, who founded Casablanca with fellow Lazard banker Douglas Taylor in 2010, was known as a serial deal-maker on Wall Street whose career included stints at law firms Cravath and Skadden. “I think I was known for being effective at doing hostile deals,” he once told Activism Monthly Premium, and hoped that his success at leading activist campaigns would engender new respect.
Casablanca was known for its campaigns at Mentor Graphics, where it eventually ceded its leading role to Carl Icahn, and Cliffs Natural Resources, where it won four seats on the board of directors, only for copper prices to plummet. Already heavily shorted before Casablanca`s intervention, the stock fell from $19.81 on the date the activist disclosed its stake to $1.98 as of yesterday`s close.
On its website, Casablanca described activism as “a sub-category of value investing,” adding “We focus on misunderstood, undervalued companies with solid business fundamentals and multiple structural and operational catalysts to maximize value.”
In a 2015 interview with Activism Monthly Premium, Drapkin spoke of his history as a deal-maker and said “Activism is just another way of keeping management on their toes and making them perform.”
Drapkin had a cameo role in Barbarians at the Gate, Bryan Burrough and John Helyar`s classic account of the leveraged buyout boom of the 1980s. There Drapkin was mentioned as a member of The Group, a loose association of M&A professionals whose work was based on a shared love of adrenaline and personal loyalty.
Drapkin notably fell out with long-standing friend and colleague Ronald Perelman in 2009, however, claiming that Perelman`s MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings had cut his salary and marginalized him within the business. In 2012, he won $16 million in a jury trial, before appearing on CNBC where said he “mourned” the loss of the 25-year friendship and business relationship.
This article was first published on Activist Insight Online on February 23, 2016.