Evelyn Davis, the feisty shareholder gadfly who spent decades scolding the business world’s boldface names, died Sunday in Washington, DC. She was 89.
Known as the “Queen of the Corporate Jungle,” Davis was a fixture at shareholder meetings, where she would berate management for poor decision-making and treating small shareholders like “peasants.”
Her tongue-lashings and antics — which included wearing hot pants to the 1971 Xerox shareholder meeting — would make today’s crop of activist investors blush.
In 2011, Davis called on former Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein to resign over the bank’s role in the financial crisis — even as she appeared to flirt with him.
“I want people to know I have nothing against you personally … And you are not a bad-looking guy,” Davis said.
Davis began attending shareholder meetings regularly in 1959, using money she inherited from her father as well as the settlement she received from her first divorce to buy stocks.
She also published “Highlights and Lowlights,” a newsletter covering corporate governance, executive compensation and regulatory issues, from 1965 until 2011.
“She wanted a business career but didn’t want a conventional career,” James Patterson, Davis’ fourth husband and longtime friend, told The Post.
Patterson, a retired foreign service officer, noted that the license for Davis’ first marriage to accountant William Henry Davis III listed her occupation as “secretary,” a term she “absolutely hated.”
“She wanted something much bigger than what society had for her at that time,” Patterson said.
Davis was born in Amsterdam on Aug. 16, 1929. At the age of 13, she and her family, who had Jewish roots, were arrested and sent to concentration camps in the Netherlands and Czechoslovakia. She later immigrated to Baltimore and lived with her father, who was a neurologist at Johns Hopkins University.
Though she was often reluctant to discuss her experience during the Holocaust, she said in an interview with the Washington Post that it made it “difficult to lead a normal life.”
“She’s a female empowerment story. She had nothing and saw her way through everything,” Patterson said.
While Davis’ antics sometimes earned her scorn in boardrooms, she was remembered fondly.
“She was more generous than people would know,” Davis’ lawyer Richard W. Bryan told The Post, referring to her frequent donations to universities, hospitals and press organizations.
“She turned a lot of people off and it was for those reasons that I was so attracted to her,” Patterson said, adding that their time together reminds him of the Ronnie Milsap song “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It for the World.”
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