JANA Partners issues new public criticism of Zendesk

Zendesk shareholder JANA Partners continues its public feud with the CEO and Board.

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Zendesk, the customer service and CRM suite, is taking more public criticism from JANA Partners LLC, a significant shareholder in the platform. Following a savage and personalized attack on Zendesk’s proposed acquisition of Momentive (including Survey Monkey) in December 2021, and a letter last month urging the Board to set a date for the 2022 Annual Meeting, JANA Partners has again publicly criticized the Board and the CEO.

“Ill conceived, value-destructive.” In a new letter signed by managing partner Barry Rosenstein, JANA Partners refers to Zendesk shareholders’ rejection of the “ill-conceived, value-destructive acquisition of Momentive by a historic margin.” In a tweet, Zendesk chairman and CEO Mikko Svane had quoted the Roman historian Tacitus: “‘The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.’ Replace safety with portfolio return at your discretion.” This tweet, writes Rosenstein, “appears to cast aspersions on Zendesk’s own shareholders.”

JANA Partners, putting forward four candidates for seats on the Board, calls for meaningful change at Zendesk. “Absent such change, we believe the Company should be sold.”

Annual shareholder’s meeting. In the previous letter, Rosenstein had observed that Zendesk had failed to provide notice of a date for the Annual Meeting, usually held in the second half of May. “We are left with no other conclusion that the Company, at the behest of the Board, is seeking to delay its annual meeting, impact the shareholder register, and squelch shareholders’ rightful opportunity to have their voices heard. It would be ill-advised for the Board to continue to pursue any entrenchment tactics.”

In the new letter he calls on Zendesk to “put an end to its transparent and costly entrenchment tactics and immediately schedule a date for its 2022 annual meeting.”


Why we care. Founded in 2007, Zendesk has grown into a prominent player in the CX space. To its initial customer service offering, it has added sales automation, CRM and social media management. It has also evolved from the SMB to the enterprise market.

This very public and highly personal feud with a significant shareholder, wherever the fault lies, can’t be good news for the company and its future.

About the author

Kim Davis
Kim Davis is currently editor at large at MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for almost three decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space. He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020. Shortly thereafter he joined Third Door Media as Editorial Director at MarTech.

Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.

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