Activist investors have shed their reputation as corporate raiders willing to burn shareholders. In the 1980s, they drew widespread condemnation for talking shareholder rights and selling out for greenmail, the practice of accepting direct payments for dropping demands for changes in management. Today’s activists largely shun the practice and often take medium- to long-term positions in pushing for change. Funds that track their performance
have done well over the past year. Whether activists ultimately help or hurt, they are master attention-getters who bring passion and showmanship to the investing world. Here are some of the best-known, brightest, and most outrageous.