Activist investors: The best (and worst) performers of 2014 by Stephen Gandel @FortuneMagazine December 3, 2014, 7:09 AM EDT E-mail Tweet Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Share icons In terms of publicity, 2014 was a great year for activist investors. Victories like Jeff Smith’s takeover of the board of Darden DRI and Bill Ackman’s fight for Allergan AGN put activists on the map, and signaled to CEOs that they need to take note of these hedge fund agitators. Measured by investment returns, though, the past year was just okay for activists. Overall, the average hedge fund that described its investment strategy as activist was up 4.5% through the end of October, according to Hedge Fund Research. That’s better than the average hedge fund, which was up by 2.8% in the first 10 months of the year. But it still trails the S&P 500, which was up 11% over the same period. What’s more, unlike Smith, other activists have not been as successful in getting the companies they have targeted to make the changes they want. Below is a ranking of prominent investors’ activist campaigns for this year.