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CEO Daily: Wednesday, April 22nd

Activist investor Nelson Peltz took his high-stakes campaign against DuPont to the St. Regis hotel in New York yesterday, where he spoke to analysts and investors lunching on chicken paillard. “This company was once the most valuable company on earth,” he said. “We are going to get the company to grow again” – but only if investors support his proxy plan to replace four DuPont directors.

Separately, we spent time with Michael Dell, who took his eponymous company private a year and a half ago and has been grinning ever since. He believes the move has let him make important investments in the fast-moving technology business while competitors – think HP, IBM – have been distracted placating short-term public investors. He seemed particularly excited about Dell Boomi, which integrates software systems, helping companies win in what Dell calls “the API (Application Program Interface) economy.”

Today’s story selection below. We’d also call special attention to Roger Parloff’s excellent and disturbing reporting on how “smart guns,” that can only be fired by their owners, have been kept off the market. The story will appear in the May issue of Fortune magazine, but can be read here.

Alan Murray
@@alansmurray
alan.murray@fortune.com

Top News

• A turf war could be erupting in the cable world

We recently mentioned the plan by Verizon Communications to offer slimmer, cheaper packages of pay TV, giving consumers more options to control which channels they pay for at a time when Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services are stealing eyeballs, and more importantly money, from traditional cable providers. Content providers aren’t happy about Verizon’s nod to the future, with NBCUniversal, Fox and ESPN all saying the new plans violate the agreements under which they supply Verizon football and other games and hit reality TV shows. Verizon claims it is acting within its rights under the terms of the existing contracts, though the dispute creates a cloud of uncertainty before the new packages launch this Sunday.  WSJ (subscription required)

Another “Ring Around the Rosie” merger

When three companies duke it out for control in a merger war, it often feels like forever before the dust settles. The latest of these battles is in the pharmaceutical world, where TEVA has unveiled an unwelcome bid for Mylan, which has attempted its own unsolicited offer to buy Perrigo. This could become the most dramatic hostile takeover battle since last year’s unsolicited attempt by drugmaker Valeant to acquire Allergan, which was ultimately acquired by Actavis. Mylan is sort of the monkey-in-the-middle in the latest battle, as both announcements from Teva and Perrigo went against the company’s wishes.  Fortune

The magic of Marissa Mayer’s words

Every so often, it is really fascinating to see how an executive’s comments can so quickly move a stock. Yahoo’s shares were falling in after-hours trading after the Internet company reported weaker than expected profitability for the latest quarter. But when CEO Marissa Mayer said the company retained advisors for a potential sale of the company’s stake in Yahoo Japan, the stock’s performance reversed into positive territory.  Fortune

• Tesla’s plan to charge ahead of the competition

Tesla Motors is reportedly planning to unveil a home battery and a very large utility-scale battery at the end of April, when the company will also try to explain the advantages of its solutions and why past battery options aren’t as compelling. The maker of luxury electric cars is using its lithium-ion battery technology to aim to become a front-runner in an emerging market for energy storage that could threaten the traditional electric grid.  Bloomberg

Google set to join wireless world

Google is expected to unveil a new U.S. wireless service, news that could be confirmed as soon as today, in an interesting development in the wireless industry. The search giant is reportedly planning to only charge customers for the amount of data they actually use each month. That could raise pressure on the existing model, as traditional wireless plans often require subscribers to pay for a predetermined amount of data that expires at the end of each month. By some estimates, smartphone users waste $28 each month on unused data.  WSJ (subscription required)

Around the Water Cooler

• How Nelson Peltz woes DuPont shareholders

A goodie bag and a lunch at the swanky St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan likely won’t sway votes in a contentious proxy vote, but it can’t hurt, right? Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management hosted a lunch for DuPont shareholders ahead of a vote to possibly replace four of DuPont’s directors with Peltz’s own nominees. The lunch attendees were the chemical company’s largest shareholders and Wall Street analysts, and most seemed to be on Peltz’s side. A gift bag with a free mug and chocolate bars, and more importantly — promises of greater shareholder returns — can be quite convincing.  Fortune

The latest on the carnitas crisis at Chipotle

Chipotle, which earlier this year suspended the sale of pork at hundreds of restaurants after issues with a supplier, said it won’t be back to full supply until this autumn. The company insists on using pork from pigs raised in humane conditions, and the prior supplier reportedly violated the company’s standards. While Chipotle says such moves are important to maintain a pristine reputation with younger consumers, it also hurts sales in the short term. Apparently, Chipotle consumers order the same dish on every visit (personally, we are a fan of the veggie burrito bowl), so when pork isn’t on the menu, some are skipping the visit.  Fortune

The history of the flash crash takes a U-Turn

Until yesterday, in the wake of the infamous 2010 “Flash Crash,” regulators concluded a mutual fund company out of Kansas had played a leading role in the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s insane 1,000-point ride. Many also believed that other factors, like high-frequency trading, played a role. But U.S. authorities now say a British man, Navinder Singh Sarao, was responsible for a stunning one out of five sell orders during the frenzy and also played a big role. Here’s another tidbit we found fascinating: Sarao has no record of having worked at a major financial firm in the U.S. or the U.K. American authorities claim he netted $40 million in illicit profits from a years-long history of lightning-quick computer trading.  Bloomberg