Wintergreen Questions if Buffett Pay Concerns Were Relayed to Coke Board

By Dow Jones Business News, 
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By Michael Calia

Wintergreen Advisers LLC on Thursday said it questioned whether Warren Buffett's concerns about Coca-Cola Co.'s ( KO ) 2014 executive compensation plan were relayed to the beverage giant's board or compensation committee.

Wintergreen's comments come a day after The Wall Street Journal reported that Coke is likely to amend its executive- pay plan following pressure from Mr. Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is the largest shareholder in the beverage company with a 9% stake.

Coke's voting shareholders approved the plan last week, while Mr. Buffett declined to vote against it even as he has privately told Coke Chief Executive Muhtar Kent of his concerns. On Wednesday, Mr. Buffett said he has told Coke executives that he believed the plan to be excessive. "I'm against the plan, and they know it," he told The Wall Street Journal.

"We would like to know whether Mr. Muhtar Kent or Mr. Howard Buffett made the Compensation Committee or the full Board of Directors aware of Mr. Warren Buffett's views on the 2014 Equity Plan," Wintergreen Chief Executive David Winters wrote in a publicly disclosed letter to Coke's board. "Did Mr. Buffett speak with any other Coca-Cola directors regarding his views of the 2014 Equity Plan, and if so, when?"

Howard Buffett is Warren Buffett's son and a member of Coke's board.

Wintergreen, a smaller Coke investor, has been publicly lobbying against the pay plan--which includes issuing 340 million new shares and options over four years--arguing that it could dilute shareholders by as much as 16.6%.

Mr. Buffett told the Journal that he agreed with Mr. Winters that the plan is excessive, but he disagreed with his figures.

Shares of Coke fell 1.3% to $40.28 in recent trading. The stock is down about 2.5% so far this year.

Write to Michael Calia at michael.calia@wsj.com

Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires


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  05-01-141145ET
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