The activist fund with a taste for court action

The hedge fund currently terrorising companies including National Express and Actelion is a fearsome opponent in boardroom battles.

Elliott Advisors is the UK arm of Elliott Management, one of the oldest hedge funds in the world with $17bn (£10.5bn) of assets.

Founded by Harvard law graduate Paul Singer in 1977, it has turned defending shareholder rights into an art form. It is also frequently termed a vulture fund thanks to its history of buying distressed debt and hauling the issuer through the courts to receive payment in full. Its targets notoriously include impoverished countries such as Peru and Congo-Brazzaville.

Elliott is highly litigious and uses courts as a weapon to ensure companies and governments respect its claims on stock or bonds.

In 2003, for instance, it successfully fought Proctor & Gamble over its takeover of hair care company Wella. P&G offered Wella shares to voting investors at a preferential rate while non-voting shareholders such as Elliott received a far poorer offer. Elliott sued the German financial regulator for approving the deal – forcing P&G to raise its offer.

Elliott is happy to hold shares in its targets for lengthy periods – it has held National Express stock since 2009 – but always ends with a demand for change that will enable it to sell at a considerable profit.