Is Scorpio Bulkers looking to go private?

Annalisa Lolli-Ghetti's revised holding could suggest a new path awaits New York-listed owner.

The family of Scorpio Bulkers chief executive Emanuele Lauro has reclassified its holding as the type that could look to seize majority control of the company or even take it private.

The change comes after repeated buys in January of Scorpio Bulkers (ticker symbol: SALT) shares in the open market by Annalisa Lolli-Ghetti, Lauro’s mother.

She now holds 2.25 million shares via holding company Scorpio Services Holding (SSH) of Monaco, a stake of 7.9%, after purchasing nearly 340,000 shares last month.

SSH had previously filed with US securities regulators under schedule 13G, a form that can be used by major holders when they are purely passive investors.

SSH and Lolli-Ghetti no longer claimed that exemption this week in filing a form 13D — essentially a more activist form of shareholding that can include an intention to take board control or influence majority ownership of a company.

For example, Monarch Capital — a hedge fund that has agitated for board seats and strategic changes by SALT — makes its filings under form 13D.

Taken to an extreme, that form of filing by the CEO/founder’s family could raise the question of attempts to take the owner private, although no such intent is discussed in the public filing.

Scorpio declined comment on the new filing today.

In the securities form, SSH says it acquired the new shares last month “solely for investment purposes.”

However, SSH adds the following: “The reporting persons further reserve the right to act in concert with any other shareholders of (SALT), or other persons, for a common purpose should it determine to do so, and/or to recommend courses of action to the (SALT) management, the board of directors, shareholders and others.

“In addition, the reporting persons are in contact with members of (SALT) management, the members of the board of directors, other significant shareholders and others regarding alternatives that (SALT) could employ to increase shareholder value."

Building a position

SSH has been building its stake in the company during an ongoing dispute with Monarch.

Last summer the investment vehicle was a long way down the list of major shareholders, with a 3.5% holding, compared with the 18.8% boasted by Monarch.

Wellington Management, Avenue Capital, Blue Mountain and Aristeia Capital all controlled a larger slice of the company at that time.

Shares have been bought at regular intervals as hostilities with Monarch grew, with a 7.8% holding revealed in mid January.

Lolli-Ghetti was also initially major investors in Scorpio Tankers after it went public, with a filing from 2012 showing her to hold a near 8% stake.

At this time, she was the third largest investor behind Wellington Management and Kensico Capital but here position subsequently decreased.

The Italian Onassis

The family’s roots in shipping stretch back to the 1950s through the Italian company Navigazione Alta Italia.

Shipowner Glauco Lolli-Ghetti, who carried the nickname "the Italian Onassis", entered the business in 1955 after marrying Anna Maria Bibolini, heiress to the shipping fortune of Giovanni Battista Bibolini.

Tougher times arrived in the 1970s and before the end of the decade Lolli-Ghetti sold what remained of NAI.

He moved first to New York and then to Monte Carlo, where he continued on a smaller scale, using the Scorpio brand.

Read more about the family’s history in shipping here.

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