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DuPont meets with Trian's board nominees: sources

A sign at the entrance to the DuPont chemical plant reads "Safety is a core value" in LaPorte, Texas, 26 miles (42 km) downtown Houston, November 17, 2014. REUTERS/Erwin Seba

By Mike Stone

(Reuters) - DuPont (DD.N) has interviewed activist investment firm Trian Fund Management LP's slate of directors, including its founder Nelson Peltz, according to people familiar with the matter, a step that could lead to a compromise with the chemical company over the composition of its board.

DuPont hosted the interviews at its Wilmington, Delaware, headquarters last week, the people said, asking not to be identified because the meetings were confidential.

Representatives for DuPont and Trian declined to comment.

Trian announced its intent to nominate its Chief Executive Peltz and three others to DuPont's board in a Jan. 8 letter to the company. While DuPont has said it would review the nominations, the interviews represent the first sign that DuPont is taking concrete steps to assess their candidacy.

However, there is no certainty discussions between Trian and DuPont will lead to either an enlarged board of directors or a settlement whereby all or some of Peltz's nominees would join DuPont's 13-member board.

Trian has put John Myers, Arthur Winkleblack, Robert Zatta and Peltz forward for election to DuPont's board at the company's 2015 annual general meeting.

Zatta has been acting CEO of specialty chemicals maker Rockwood Holdings Inc since July 2014 and Winkleblack is on the boards of consumer goods maker Church & Dwight Co Inc (CHD.N) and RTI International Metals Inc (RTI.N). Myers is a former CEO of GE Asset Management, a General Electric Co (GE.N) subsidiary.

In a September letter Peltz penned to DuPont, he called for the company to split itself up and said there was room for as much as $4 billion in cost cuts.

DuPont, on the other hand, has repeatedly extolled the benefits of keeping its units together. It has however announced plans to spin off its performance chemical business, which makes materials such as Teflon and represents nearly 20 percent of its revenue.

Trian and investment funds it manages own 24.3 million DuPont shares, equivalent to a 2.68 percent stake currently worth about $1.8 billion.

DuPont has yet to present its recommended slate of director nominees for the 2015 annual meeting or set a date for that meeting.

If DuPont does not incorporate Peltz's candidates into its own "recommended" slate, Peltz could undertake a costly proxy contest and run his alternative slate of directors.

In announcing its quarterly earnings on Jan. 27, DuPont said its sales fell short of expectations due to the strengthening dollar.

(This version of the story was corrected to show Myers is a former GE Asset Management CEO instead of currently in the position in paragraph seven.)

(Additonal reporting by Olivia Oran in New York; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Grant McCool)