Winters Exits Berkshire Stake After Faulting Buffett on Coke Pay

Aug 15, 2014 5:48 pm ET

Aug. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Wintergreen Advisers LLC, the firm run by David Winters, exited its stake in Berkshire Hathaway Inc. after criticizing Warren Buffett for not voting against an executive compensation plan at Coca-Cola Co.

Wintergreen held no shares in Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire at the end of June, according to a regulatory filing issued yesterday. Winters’s firm had 1.2 million Class B shares on March 31, when the stake was valued at about $151 million, a separate filing shows.

Winters waged a campaign this year to persuade investors to reject Coke’s executive-pay proposal, calling it a “raw deal” for shareholders. He appealed to Buffett to oppose the plan, because Berkshire is the soft-drink maker’s largest investor. Buffett didn’t speak publicly about the plan until after it passed, when he said he had abstained from voting.

“As a longtime shareholder of Berkshire, Mr. Buffett’s words and actions (or more aptly, inactions) regarding Coke’s 2014 equity plan did not sit well with us,” Winters said today in an e-mailed statement. “We no longer felt that Warren Buffett was looking out for his shareholders’ interests.”

Winters, who retained his holding in Coke during the second quarter, said Berkshire is “still a high-quality business with a compelling valuation.” Wintergreen had held Berkshire stock since early 2006.

Buffett didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment sent to an assistant. He said at Berkshire’s shareholder meeting in May that abstaining made a statement about the excessiveness of Coke’s pay plan without a public rebuke.

“I don’t think going to war is a very good idea in most situations,” he said at the gathering.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Wintergreen’s move.