Activist shareholder Evelyn Davis, a gadfly at Detroit 3 annual meetings, dies at 89




Bill Ford, who in 2003 staged a photoshoot as he delivered Davis a new Jaguar X-Type, called Davis “a force of life that could not be ignored.” Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

Evelyn Davis, the self-proclaimed “Queen of the Corporate Jungle” who needled executives during shareholder meetings as she advocated for boardroom accountability, died Sunday, Nov. 4, in Washington. She was 89.

Davis, a noted philanthropist, investor, financial skeptic and defender of shareholder rights, often clashed with management of Fortune 500 companies over issues both serious and silly. And the Detroit 3 automakers all had to deal with her.

A regular attendee of Ford Motor Co.’s annual shareholder meeting, Davis once badgered then-CEO Henry Ford II for not having a male secretary to answer his phone when she called.

In 2008, she bashed Ford for selling Jaguar and Land Rover to Tata Motors, an Indian company. She also told then-CEO Alan Mulally that although he’s not a bad-looking guy, “You should go back to Boeing, and we should have my king, Bill Ford, come back and be chairman and CEO again. It’s terrible what’s going on here.”

Bill Ford, who in 2003 staged a photoshoot as he delivered Davis a new Jaguar X-Type, called her “a force of life that could not be ignored.”

One of her favorite gambits was having automaker CEOs personally compete for her business.

“Although her tactics were often outrageous, it was impossible to ignore Evelyn,” Bill Ford said in a statement. “And while less-known, her philanthropic efforts were equally impressive and through the years, her foundation donated more than $1 million to support many organizations. I consider Evelyn a friend, and the world has lost a true original.”

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