Evelyn Y. Davis is the worlds most famous shareholder activist. Shes also the most outspoken, the most outrageous, the most intelligent, the most confident, the most charming.
Just ask her.
Theres no other shareholder like me! she declared in a recent interview. Theres no other woman like me!
For decades, Davis has been buying stock in big companies for the primary reason, it seems, of attending their annual meetings and turning them into her personal stage.
Simultaneously brash and flirty, she heckles CEOs, remarks on their handsomeness, yells at other shareholders and proclaims that she knows more than anyone else in the room.
So there was something missing this year when Davis didnt show up at any companys annual meeting. Not Bank of America. Not US Airways. Not Ford or Goldman Sachs or any of the dozens she usually attends.
Age has finally made her do what the most powerful CEOs in America couldnt: Give it a rest.
Im not so young anymore, said Davis, 82.
This is the first year she wont publish Highlights and Lowlights, the newsletter in which since 1965 she has reported on company meetings and how she was treated at them, which reporters gave her the most coverage and anything else on her mind.
She peddles it for $600 a copy, minimum two copies, to the same CEOs she harangues.
Never one to doubt her own grandeur, she is fond of introducing herself as queen of the corporate jungle.
The CEOs of JPMorgan Chase, Macys and Saks agreed that Davis brings entertainment value to shareholder meetings.
Annual meetings are never boring when Evelyn Davis is on the scene, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon said.
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein has often found himself on the receiving end of an Evelyn Y. Davis tongue-lashing.
Our annual meeting this year was shorter with less drama, Blankfein told the AP. Without Evelyn, it just wasnt the same.
While some investors are scared to confront powerful executives, Davis is anything but. She asks pointed questions about their business decisions, and sometimes tells them they should resign in shame.
She advocates for lower CEO pay, term limits for board members and more disclosure on companies political spending – issues dear to most shareholder advocates.
Tact, however, is not her strong point. She interrupts everyone, sitting at the front and yelling out questions that often have nothing to do with the topic being discussed. She tells other speakers they dont know what theyre talking about. She implies that the best-looking male CEOs are in love with her.
I have power over the most important men in the country, she said. Thats pretty good if you can get it, right?
Davis bully pulpit, the annual shareholder meeting, is the one time of year when CEOs of public companies have to face their shareholders, answer their questions and listen to their complaints. Davis critics – and there are many – say she makes a mockery of shareholder advocacy, grandstanding for attention more than talking about the issues. They get frustrated that shes the only shareholder allowed to break the rules, not waiting her turn to speak or respecting time limits.
She was especially cheeky in her younger days. Like at the General Motors meeting in 1970, where she showed up in a bathing suit to make sure she wouldnt get upstaged by Ralph Nader. (He didnt show.).
Seymour Licht, a US Airways shareholder, memorably tangled with Davis at a shareholder meeting a few years ago, when she was going on about how unjust it was for the company to schedule its meeting on the same day as another airlines.
I screamed at the top of my lungs, Shut this woman up, and I couldnt get it to happen, Licht said. Later in that meeting, Davis asked CEO Doug Parker whether he was afraid of her. Just a little bit, he replied.
A US Airways representative declined to comment. We wish Evelyn well, spokesman John McDonald said.