Hedge fund Elliott takes aim at Akamai

A bank of displays at Akamai, a computer security firm in Kendall Square.
Lane Turner/Globe Staff
A bank of displays at Akamai, a computer security firm in Kendall Square.

Akamai Technologies Inc. of Cambridge became the latest target of Elliott Management Corp., the activist hedge fund that has pressured numerous companies into making dramatic changes to improve lagging stock prices.

In a regulatory filing Friday, Elliott disclosed it had acquired about 6.5 percent of Akamai shares and intends to “engage in a dialogue” with company officials about improving its financial performance and business operations, including a “potential strategic review or sale process” of the company and its business assets.

Akamai operates the world’s leading content delivery network, a system used by large companies to efficiently transmit large amounts of digital data around the globe. In recent years, this business has fallen off because of rising competition.


But Akamai has also become a major provider of network security services, and business in that market is booming. The company’s revenues in the third quarter were $621.4 million, up from $584 million from the same period in 2016. However, shares of Akamai, which peaked at $71.64 earlier in the year, hit a low of $44 midyear, and closed at $57.76 Friday, on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

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In a statement Friday afternoon, the company responded to news of the filing.

“Akamai appreciates the views of all our stockholders and we value constructive input toward the common goal of enhancing stockholder value. The Akamai Board of Directors and management team regularly review the Company’s strategic priorities and opportunities to achieve this important objective and will continue to act in the best interests of the Company and all Akamai stockholders.”

Having Elliott acquire a position in a company is usually an ominous development for management. Among the world’s largest activist hedge funds, with assets of more than $39 billion, Elliott is famously aggressive in pursuing its targets — it once seized a vessel belonging to the Argentine Navy in an ultimately successful effort to compel that nation to pay off its bonds. Other targets of its shareholder activism include oil giant Hess Corp. and South Korean conglomerate Samsung Corp.

It also has a track record of demanding reforms at Massachusetts-based companies. In 2011, it forced a board shakeup at Boston records storage company Iron Mountain Inc., which led the company to restructure itself as a real estate investment trust. In 2014, Elliott sought a breakup of Hopkinton-based data storage firm EMC Corp. Unwilling to dismantle the company, chief executive Joseph Tucci instead sold EMC to privately held Dell Inc. for $67 billion, one of the largest deals ever in the tech sector.


And in October, athenahealth Inc. announced a major cost cutting program, including the loss of some 500 jobs and the closing of two offices, after Elliott acquired a big stake in the Watertown electronic medical records company.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.