(Bloomberg) -- Texas Pacific Land Trust postponed a special shareholders meeting and sued the activist investor vying for a trustee job, the latest twist in an increasingly acrimonious proxy fight.
The meeting, previously scheduled for June 6, has been called off until further notice to give investors "the opportunity to cast a fully informed vote,’’ Trustee David E. Barry said Tuesday in a statement.
The Dallas-based company also filed a lawsuit in federal court in Dallas against Eric Oliver, the dissident nominee, accusing him of violating securities laws in connection with the proxy contest and secretly working in concert with other parties, including Santa Monica Partners and Universal Guaranty Life Insurance Co.
Oliver, who runs hedge fund SoftVest LP, said the claims in the lawsuit are without merit, and Santa Monica Partners and Universal Guaranty didn't need to register as part of the dissident group.
"I would say if they had the votes they needed, they would be holding the meeting," Oliver said in an interview. The group has sufficient votes to win the trustee seat, based on preliminary tallies, he added.
Santa Monica confirmed its support for Oliver in an April filing but isn't working with the dissident shareholders, its president, Lawrence J. Goldstein, said in an interview. "I have nothing to do with Mr. Oliver," he said. No one immediately returned a message left with Universal Guaranty seeking comment.
Texas Pacific is a previously obscure land bank created out of a railroad bankruptcy more than a century ago. Its shares have surged in recent years, giving it a market capitalization of $6.6 billion, as land in West Texas becomes increasingly sought-after by shale drillers and companies looking for fresh supplies of water used in fracking. The dissident investors, including the trust's largest shareholder, Horizon Kinetics, are pushing it to change its corporate structure and disclose more details about its operations.
The trust faces an uphill battle to win the necessary support for its own trustee candidate despite winning the backing of two prominent shareholder advisory firms, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. and Glass Lewis & Co. The dissident investors hold more than 25% of the of the outstanding shares in the company, creating a hurdle for Texas Pacific to win the necessary support for its nominee.
That challenge has been compounded by a large retail investor base, which would need to be corralled as well for the trust to prevail. A representative for the dissident investors wasn't immediately available for comment.
The company had already delayed the vote from May 22 to June 6 after it said it needed additional time prepare and mail supplemental proxy material upon the request of regulators.
--With assistance from David Glovin.
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