Rawlings
Bloomberg News

Newell Brands Inc. (NYSE: NWL) will further expand its transformation plan after reaching a deal with activist investor Carl Icahn. The update from Newell comes after the company agreed to add to four directors that were nominated by Icahn to its board. Newell says "there are further accretive divestiture opportunities," but did not specify which brands or assets it will consider shedding.

"I believe we will be successful in helping to enhance value in the same way at Newell Brands. This company has a great stable of brands, and I believe a streamlined consumer-facing portfolio will help the company focus on the most important businesses and reignite the performance in their core businesses," Icahn said in a statement. Icahn owns a near seven percent stake in Newell.

"Our agreement with Carl Icahn reflects our shared understanding of the complexity of our business and our strategy to win in the rapidly changing retail landscape," adds Newell CEO Michael Polk. Newell expects the process to generate about $10 billion in after-tax proceeds after it is completed, and the company is going to focus on nine core businesses that will have around $11 billion in sales and $2 billion in Ebitda.

Hoboken, New Jersey-based Newell is already taking steps to streamline the company's portfolio through M&A. In February, the company said it will look at divesting the Rawlings, Goody, Rubbermaid Outdoor, Closet, Refuse and Garage, U.S. Playing Cards, Waddington, Process Solutions, Rubbermaid Commercial Products and Mapa products and brands. Newell said the process will cut its customer base in half and reduce the number of factories and warehouses it operates by the same count.

Newell's transformation strategy shows the extent that retailers are struggling to keep their brick-and-mortar stores alive. For example, Toys "R" Us filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and recently announced it will shut all of its stores. Toys "R" Us owns the Babies "R" Us brand, which is a Newell customer of baby products. Newell makes Graco car seats and Baby Jogger strollers.

Best known as the maker of the Sharpie brand of pens and markers, Newell has been streamlining its portfolio through M&A to focus on faster growing businesses including candles. Newell launched its Growth Game Plan in 2012 to create a “larger, faster growing, more global and more profitable company."

In 2015, Newell added Elmer’s to its writing division, which houses the Sharpie brand. In 2016, the company completed the $15 billion purchase of Yankee Candle owner Jarden. Newell won Mergers & Acquisitions’ 2015 M&A Mid-Market Award for Strategic Buyer of the Year.

More recently. Newell agreed to buy Chesapeake Bay Candle from its founders for $75 million and completed the sale of the Rubbermaid consumer storage business to United Solutions and sold sells its winter sports unit to Kohlberg & Co. Newell also completed the $100 million acquisition of candle producer Smith Mountain Industries and sold Irwin tools to Stanley Black & Decker Inc. (NYSE: SWK) for $1.95 billion.

Goldman Sachs & Co. (NYSE: GS) and Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. are acting as financial advisors to Newell Brands, and Jones Day is acting as legal counsel.

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Demitri Diakantonis

Demitri Diakantonis

Demitri Diakantonis joined SourceMedia in 2015 and serves as Managing Editor of Mergers & Acquisitions. He covers all aspects of middle-market deamaking, with a focus on strategic buyers and the consumer and retail sectors, and writes The Buyside column.