Activist investor Elliott Investment Management has issued a statement that calls for a shakeup of tower company Crown Castle.

Elliott, which manages funds which collectively have an investment of $2 billion in Crown Castle International, has called for a reshuffle of the executives and board at the company.

Crown Castle
– Sebastian Moss

Elliott said the firm needs "comprehensive leadership change." It plans to nominate directors at Crown Castle and is ready to appeal to other shareholders to make changes to the 12-member board, signaling a possible proxy fight next year.

Elliott wants Crown Castle to reassess its fiber strategy, with options including selling it off, optimizing its incentive plan, and improving corporate governance.

"Crown Castle suffers from a profound lack of oversight by the Board, which has contributed to its irresponsible stewardship and flawed financial policy," Elliott wrote in a letter to the Crown Castle board, jointly signed by Jesse Cohn, managing partner, and Jason Genrich, senior portfolio manager.

"The Company's strategy, led by CEO Jay Brown since 2016, has been a failure, as demonstrated by the breathtaking magnitude of its underperformance. During the tenure of the current executive team, Crown Castle has underperformed its direct peers by an average of 85 percent in total return, which translates into nearly $26 billion of unfulfilled shareholder value."

Elliott, which has investments in X (formerly Twitter) and AT&T, also stated that Crown Castle had "disregarded data-driven analysis," and had not taken its previous recommended changes seriously.

This statement, part of Elliott's 2023 "Restoring the Castle" campaign, is very much a continuation of its 2020 "Reclaiming the Crown" campaign, which also called for enhanced governance and fiber-strategy improvements.

2020 was the first time Elliott publicly pressured Crown Castle, urging management to rethink its fiber and criticizing the company's returns in 2020.

Crown Castle said it is open to "commencing a constructive engagement with Elliott." The company also said that it "remains confident in Crown Castle’s executive leadership as the company continues to act in the best interests of all shareholders."

Earlier this year, Crown Castle revealed it was cutting 15 percent of its workforce after dropping $90 million in expected services revenues from its full-year 2023 financial forecast.

Unlike other tower-focused companies such as American Tower and SBA Communications, its CEO Brown has ruled out investing in data centers as part of its future infrastructure portfolio.

American Tower, traditionally a cell tower business, with 226,000 sites worldwide, has a number of small Edge colocation sites at tower locations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Jacksonville, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Austin, Texas; and Denver and Boulder, Colorado.

Earlier this summer American Tower filed plans to develop a new Edge data center in San Antonio, Texas. It also acquired CoreSite for $10.1 billion, a colo player with 25 US data centers, in November 2021.

Crown Castle plans to focus on its towers and small cells business. The company has over 40,000 towers, 120,000 small cells on air or under contract to go on air; and around 85,000 route miles of fiber.