The unique marriage of Maple Leaf Foods Inc. and activist shareholder Greg Boland ended earlier this month when Bay Street fund West Face Capital Inc. sold its four-year-old stake in the company.
West Face sold nearly 16 million shares in the food-processing company in two tranches starting in May, according to people familiar with the stock sale. The bulk of the holding was sold last week.
"He's gone; he's made his money on Maple Leaf Foods," said one person familiar with the transaction. West Face is believed to have sold the shares for total proceeds of $300-million, indicating Mr. Boland has doubled the return on his investment.
Reached Tuesday night, Mr. Boland, who remains a company director, declined to comment.
Maple Leaf spokesman Dave Bauer said he could not comment on the holdings of investors, but he said that Mr. Boland remains a board member who is supportive of the company's strategic direction.
West Face has sold its Maple Leaf stake as it moves into a new investment frontier, backing a bid by Globalive Wireless Management Corp. to acquire a stake in upstart cellphone carrier Wind Mobile.
West Face's exit from Maple Leaf Foods marks the end of an extraordinary alliance between the activist fund and the company's management.
Mr. Boland launched a high-profile proxy battle in 2010 to shake up Maple Leaf's board. At the time, the company faced accusations from some investors that it had been stocked with friends and allies of the McCain family, which owns one-third of the company. Maple Leaf had disappointed shareholders for years with high production costs and shrinking profit margins in the face of more efficient global competitors.
When Maple Leaf acquiesced to West Face's demands for independent directors, it was widely assumed the fund would push to replace a number of directors and the company's chief executive officer, Michael McCain. Instead, Mr. Boland worked with Maple Leaf directors and Mr. McCain to craft a multiyear restructuring plan to revive the company's ailing meat-processing business.
Mr. McCain unveiled a $560-million overhaul of the company's aging meat-processing facilities in 2011, while the company quietly prepared to sell its non-core meat assets. Last year, Mexico's Grupo Bimbo agreed to acquire Maple Leaf's Canada Bread Division for $1.8-billion, a deal that closed last May. West Face began trimming its holdings shortly after the sale was finalized.
Mr. McCain, who is the company's biggest shareholder, at 33 per cent, has not sold any stock, another source said.
The fund's departure leaves Maple Leaf with an uncertain future. Mr. McCain has staked his career on returning the meat division to profitability within the next few years, but so far his goal has been elusive. The company has lost money in five of the past six quarters, and it is expected to post a loss for 2014 as the restructuring costs have ballooned to about $1-billion.
The losses have mounted as the company opens new meat plants while still operating the older ones slated for closure. Over the past two years, Maple Leaf Foods has also sold its meat-rendering division, a turkey operation and its Olivieri pasta company, leaving it focused on prepared meats and hog production.