Well, René, welcome to the club. The corporate raider has accepted an invitation from Sulzer Medica CEO Stephan Rietiker to join the board of Europe's largest maker of artificial hips. "I expect to be fairly outspoken," says Bragnisky, the tenacious chief of InCentive Capital, which runs Sf650 million ($394 million).
Depend on it. Braginsky, who has amassed a 15 percent stake in the company, is no stranger to Sulzer Medica. He tried and failed to buy its parent, Sulzer, last year but in the process pushed out its chief executive, Ueli Roost, and forced Sulzer to spin off the medical unit to shareholders. Braginsky's stakes in Swiss companies , insurer Bâloise, cable TV operator Cablecom and engineering firm Georg Fischer , have often spurred corporate changes: He performs management-replacement surgery.
Braginsky came by his initial Medica stake in the spin-off. But after that deal was announced in April 2001, a cascade of lawsuits over allegedly faulty hip replacements in the U.S. came to light, causing the company's shares to tumble from Sf355 that April to a low of Sf39 last November. (Potential liabilities had been known about for some time, but their sheer scope didn,t become clear until Sulzer's annual meeting that April.)
Braginsky's response? He bought more Medica shares. "Only the U.S. subsidiary of Medica was in danger of being liquidated, and even though the Swiss parent had potential liabilities, we couldn,t go wrong buying the shares at that price," explains the 53-year-old.
Sure enough, Medica's shares have partially recovered, to Sf165 as of late April this year, on the strength of a prospective $1 billion U.S. legal settlement. Braginsky is now studying whether Medica should eventually be sold.