If Rosenstein does pick a fight with McDonald’s, he’ll have more than one not-so-silent partner. Also eyeing McDonald’s is Keith Meister, who runs Corvex Management. Corvex bought 205,000 shares of McDonald’s in the first quarter. Meister is a former right-hand man to Carl Icahn. But the activist who looks most likely to aggressively pursue McDonald’s is lesser known Larry Robbins. Robbins’ Glenview Capital bought 2.9 million shares of McDonald’s in the first quarter. Another hedge fund, Highfields Capital, which is led by sometimes activist investor Jonathan Jacobson, upped its stake in McDonald’s in the first quarter as well. That fund now owns nearly $1.4 billion worth of stock and options in the fast food chain.
The one option that keeps coming up is McDonald’s spinning off its real estate holdings as a REIT. Count me skeptical on this option happening. Ray Kroc may be synonymous with McDonald’s but it was Harry Sonnenborn’s real estate acquisition, financing, and leasing strategy that made McDonald’s extremely profitable. Owning and leasing real estate has been a crucial pillar to McDonald’s business success so it’s hard for me to see management willingly spin-off its real estate holdings.