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Eton Park’s Eric Mindich Pushes for Airgas, Air Products Merger

The former Goldman Sachs partner has fired off a letter urging Airgas to accept the $70 per share takeover offer from Air Products and Chemicals.

Eric Mindich’s Eton Park is turning up the heat on Airgas. The former Goldman Sachs partner has fired off a letter urging the company to accept the $70 per share takeover offer from Air Products and Chemicals.

“Until now, we have refrained from public comment on either Air Products’ efforts to acquire Airgas or on Airgas’ efforts to defend against the bid,” writes Mindich, whose firm owns more than 6 million shares, or 7.15 percent of the outstanding shares, of Airgas. “We generally do not oppose poison pills or staggered boards and believe that the Airgas board to date has served its shareholders well.”

Indeed, Airgas’ steadfast refusal to capitulate has led Air Products to raise its bid several times. However, Mindich believes the $70 bid is fair, and “represents an appropriate price for control of Airgas.” “We believe the Airgas board should now either allow shareholders to accept Air Products’ revised offer or establish a clearly defined process designed to achieve greater value through an alternative control transaction,” Mindich adds in the brief letter.

Air Products earlier this year offered $65.50 per share in cash for its industrial gas rival. However, Airgas refused to meet with the company. In a proxy fight at Airgas’ 2010 annual meeting, Air Products was able to win all three board seats that were up for election on the nine-member staggered board.

Airgas shareholders also adopted a shareholder amendment proposed by Air Products that would have moved up the date of Airgas's 2011 annual meeting to January, just four months after its 2010 annual meeting was held. This would have theoretically enabled Air Products to pick up another three Board seats much earlier than it otherwise would have been able to, and gain majority control of the Board.

Airgas sued and in October the Delaware Chancery Court ruled in favor of Air Products. Airgas appealed to the Delaware Supreme Court and, lo and behold, it won. Last month the Delaware Supreme Court reversed the lower court ruling.

Mindich has been on the fast track ever since he started working at Goldman Sachs after high school. He spent summers at the firm in between earning a B.A. degree in economics at Harvard summa cum laude, where he also was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. In 1994, he became one of the youngest partners in Goldman's history.

Altogether, he spent 15 years at the gilded investment bank, mostly leading the firm’s equities arbitrage business and managing the firm’s equities division. When he left to start Eton Park in 2004, it was the largest new launch of a hedge fund in history at the time, initially raising $3 billion. The fund, which invests in US equities and other markets, had an initial lock-up of 4 years and required a minimum investment of $5 million.

Mindich currently manages around $13 billion.

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