Nelson Peltz Declares Victory in Procter & Gamble Proxy Fight

The biggest, most expensive and possibly closest corporate proxy battle ever took another strange twist on Wednesday.

A month ago at its annual shareholder meeting in Cincinnati, Procter & Gamble announced that its preliminary count of proxy votes showed that it had fended off an effort by the activist investor Nelson Peltz to win a seat on its board.

After the market closed on Wednesday, Trian Fund Management, the investment firm controlled by Mr. Peltz, announced that a vote count by the independent inspector of elections showed that he had, in fact, been elected.

In a statement, Procter & Gamble said Mr. Peltz’s winning margin — 42,780 shares, or about 0.0016 percent of the shares outstanding — was still preliminary and was “subject to a review and challenge period.”

The announcement threw what had already been a wild and crazy corporate proxy battle — closely watched as a referendum on the leadership of underperforming blue-chip companies — into one that is likely to be studied for years. In after-hours trading, Procter & Gamble’s stock jumped 2.6 percent.

It is the latest showdown between an established company and an activist investor. In a stinging rebuke, the hedge fund owner William A. Ackman failed last week in his campaign to shake up the board of ADP, the payroll-processing firm.

Procter & Gamble, with a market capitalization of about $225 billion, is the biggest corporation ever to be a target of an activist investor. The proxy fight was also the most expensive, with both sides spending at least a combined $60 million. And it is likely to be one of the closest proxy battles ever, a particularly astonishing feat considering holders of nearly two billion common shares voted.

The fight could now enter a new phase, in which the independent inspector of elections, IVS Associates, will pore over the proxy votes. Votes made electronically, online or over the phone, are relatively easy to double check. The trouble — and time — comes with closely examining paper ballots that were mailed in or turned in during the shareholder meeting.

But on Wednesday, Trian urged Procter & Gamble to accept the preliminary results.

“Trian strongly urges P.&G. to accept the inspector’s tabulation and not waste further time and shareholder money contesting the outcome of the annual meeting,” the company said in a statement. “Shareholders have voted, and they have indicated that they want Nelson Peltz to join the board.”

In its statement, Procter & Gamble said it would announce the final results in the weeks ahead after it received a final, certified report from the inspector of elections.