Is activist investor Starboard looking to run at Hewlett Packard Enterprise?

There was Yahoo. There was Depomed. There was Marvell Technology.

And now, with its investment in Hewlett Packard Enterprise, activist investor Starboard Value Fund appears to be going for a grand slam of cage-rattling among Bay Area businesses this year.

Starboard, a New York-based hedge fund run by Jeffrey Smith, has bought a $124.7 million stake in HPE, according to a regulatory filing on Monday. It remains to be seen if Smith and Starboard will reach out to HPE Chief Executive Meg Whitman in an effort to increase its influence at the enterprise-technology company that was created when Hewlett-Packard split in two in 2015.

Starboard is known for buying up stakes in publicly traded companies that it views as being improperly managed or undervalued, and then launching efforts to shake up those companies boards of directors.

Already this year, Starboard has used its stock ownership and activist philosophy to grab seats on the boards of chipmaker Marvell Technology, which has its U.S. headquarters in Santa Clara, and pharmaceutical company Depomed, of Newark.

Its most high-profile attack came against Yahoo when, earlier this year, Starboard said it would submit a slate of directors to replace Yahoo’s entire board, including CEO Marissa Mayer. Starboard and Yahoo reached a sort of a truce in April, when Yahoo added four of Starboard’s nominees to its board of directors.

So, while Starboard has yet to publicly say it if has intentions for HPE beyond just owning some of the company’s stock, based on its track record Meg Whitman might want to keep an eye out for any registered letters coming from New York. And maybe she should give Mayer a call for some advice about what to do if or when that Starboard letter eventually arrives.

Photo: Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chief Executive Meg Whitman. (LiPo Ching/Mercury News)


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