December 16, 2016 / 1:09 PM / 10 months ago

Marathon Petroleum extends director deadline amid Elliott pressure

(Reuters) - Marathon Petroleum Corp. (MPC.N) extended its board director nomination deadline on Friday amid break-up pressure from hedge fund Elliott Management LP.

In a securities filing disclosed on Friday, Marathon said it amended its bylaws to move the deadline for shareholders to nominate board directors to Jan. 9. The original deadline expired on Thursday.

New York-based Elliott unveiled a 4 percent stake in the company last month and issued a set of demands it wants Marathon to follow, including spinning off its gas station retail business known as Speedway.

Elliott also said the company needs to speed up its so-called “drop down” plan related to its master limited partnership, MPLX Inc. (MPLX.N).

Marathon indicated at the time the company did not agree with Elliott’s plan, an early sign the two sides could face a proxy fight if they failed to reach an agreement.

Marathon’s extension shows that the company is willing to allow more time for it to work out differences with Elliott.

The two sides can either reach a deal before Jan. 9, whereby Elliott gets some kind of board representation and agrees to support the company in a settlement, or they continue the fight and the hedge fund nominates its own board members.

Elliott did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Jana Partners, another activist investor with a stake in the company, has previously said it supports Marathon’s drop-down plan.

The nearly $30 billion hedge fund is among the most aggressive of the large activists, launching more campaigns against companies through September of this year than any other investor, data from Lazard show. Elliott is Marathon’s fourth-largest shareholder.

The main point of contention between the company and Elliott appears to be with the hedge fund’s suggestion of spinning off Speedway, or all three of its retail, refining and pipeline businesses.

Reporting by Michael Flaherty; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Trott

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