Visteon Corp (VC), DIRECTV (DTV), Meritor Inc (MTOR): Billionaire Tom Sandell’s Top Picks

Tom Sandell’s Sandell Asset Management recently filed its 13F with the SEC, disclosing its equity holdings at the end of 2014. The value of the fund’s equity portfolio crested $1.0 billion for the first time at the close of the year, an improvement from the $938 million it held at the end of the third quarter. The activist investor, who has recently been pushing for the sale of SemGroup Corp (NYSE:SEMG), which was just outside his top five picks, has some noteworthy new positions, one of which we’ll examine in this feature.

Thomas Sandell

First up though is Bob Evans Farms Inc (NASDAQ:BOBE), which moves into the top spot after Sandell’s former top pick, Compuware Corporation (NASDAQ:CPWR) was acquired by private equity firm Thoma Bravo LLC in December. Sandell has had similarly themed discussions with Bob Evans’ management, previously declaring that it had been in contact with various firms who had interest in acquiring some of the company’s assets.

Sandell increased his stake in Bob Evans Farms Inc (NASDAQ:BOBE) in the fourth quarter by 7%, to 1.62 million shares, while the company’s largest shareholder among funds we track, Rob Citrone’s Discovery Capital Management, also increased its stake by 10%, to 2.20 million shares. In operation for more than 50 years, Bob Evans provides packaged food for restaurants and convenience stores, as well as providing other support services. Shares of the company are up 15.08% year-to-date.

Brookdale Senior Living, Inc. (NYSE:BKD) was one of Sandell’s new positions during the fourth quarter, as it purchased 1.87 million shares of the real estate provider of residences for seniors. It was the only new position to make Sandell’s top five holdings, and it quickly utilized that new position to push for changes at the company, including a shakeup of the board and the sale of some of its assets (we’ll cover this campaign in greater detail in our first Activist Newsletter, releasing at the end of the month).

Billionaires Larry Robbins and Daniel Och are two major investors of Brookdale Senior Living, Inc. (NYSE:BKD) who could have a say in how a potential proxy fight would unfold. Robbins owned 8.76 million shares at the end of 2014, while Och owned 4.24 million. Shares of Brookdale gained 5% on the news of Sandell’s activist campaign, and are up slightly year-to-date.