Activist investors have long been polarizing figures, but the past year has brought to a head the debate over aggressive investment tactics and their outcomes. Several high-profile names — among them William Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management and Nelson Peltz of Trian Partners — are under attack from the companies they target and some other investors.

As a whole, activism hasn’t been yielding great results lately. Stocks targeted by activist investors lost 8 percent in 2015 while the S&P gained 1.4 percent, according to a review by London-based data provider Activist Insight with U.S. law firm Schulte Roth & Zabel. In January activist-targeted stocks suffered their worst month in years, losing 6.1 percent, Chicago-based Hedge Fund Research reports.

But one headline-grabbing activist investor — Jeffrey Smith, CEO of New York–based Starboard Value — remains hopeful. “We do have the benefit of getting [shareholders’] support often,” Smith tells Institutional Investor. “It’s because they believe the people we’re recommending for boards will do a better job representing the shareholders’ interests than existing board members.”

Smith, 43, founded the Starboard strategy with Mark Mitchell in 2002 under the aegis of Ramius, the global alternative-investment management subsidiary of New York–headquartered Cowen Group. They added Peter Feld to the team in 2005. Starboard Value spun off from Ramius in early 2011 and has since operated independently.

Starboard keeps its performance numbers close to the vest, but a look at recent positions shows mixed results. Darden Restaurants, owner of the Olive Garden chain and former owner of Red Lobster, has seen significant growth since Starboard began putting pressure on its board in late 2013, reaching a five-year high of more than $75 a share last summer. After taking a 5.6 percent stake, Smith and Starboard quickly pushed Orlando, Florida–based Darden to sell Red Lobster, and in the fall of 2014 they succeeded in replacing all of the company’s directors.

But other targets seem like they have yet to pay off. At last year’s Delivering Alpha conference in New York, Smith said that Starboard had taken a position in Macy’s and would encourage the retailer to sell its real estate. Macy’s stock spiked briefly after his July announcement but has since sunk from $72.80 to $42.32 as of February 23; in its earnings report for the fourth quarter of 2015, the company hinted at plans to start unloading property.