Hill International has held off an activist investor's push begun two months ago to boost the Philadelphia-based construction management and risk consultant's stock price through a possible sale. The company's shareholders voted on Aug. 7 to reject two new directors from the activist, Bulldog Investors, as well as its proposal to hire an investment banker to probe "liquidity" options.

The firm did agree to add two new independent directors to its seven-member board, with "appropriate candidates" to be identified over the next several months. "This was not the result of any agreement with Bulldog and these two new directors will not be from Bulldog or anyone they have recommended," says a Hill spokesman. "Bulldog lost the proxy fight and will have no say in how our board operates going forward."

The spokesman says Bulldog principals Philip Goldstein and Andrew Dakos lost their bids for board seats, receiving 43.1% and 37.2% of voted shares, respectively. Two other re-elected board members each received 54.6% of votes for new three-year terms.

The meeting was rescheduled from early June after a Delaware Chancery court supported Bulldog's intention to seek the board seats and proposal vote. Hill shareholders did agree to Bulldog's push to rescind a so-called "poison pill" provision recently put in place as a defense against a potential buyer accumulating a certain amount of shares.

But Hill said in a statement that the approval was "moot" because the firm's board had already canceled the provision in June.

Bulldog has about a 6.6% ownership share in the firm. According to published reports, Hill International President and CEO David Richter, his father and firm Chairman Irvin Richter and family members own about 25%.

David Richter expressed gratitude for the board support of the firm's "strategic direction" that includes having about 47% of its revenue from Middle East building markets and a recent corporate relocation to Philadelphia from central New Jersey.

Bulldog, which was among ten noted activist investors ranked by The Wall Street Journal, touts its "40 proxy campaigns to enhance shareholder value" since 1992.

The investor escalated its push in May against Hill management after the consultant rejected a $5.50 per share offer from DC Capital Partners that the private equity firm claimed was a 40% premium on the consultant's share price at the time. DC Capital had acquired engineer Michael Baker International a few years ago, and was contemplating merging the firms, according to a Middle East business publication.

The publication cites DC Capital's concern over Hill's "disproportionate exposure" to often risky Middle East markets.

Hill reported record revenue and backlog in 2014 in results announced in March, but posted a 52.2% decline in operating profit. At the time, Richter noted challenges "in converting that growth to profitability."

Richter told an investor conference in New York City in June that the firm was ramping up a $25-million cost-cutting program in its third quarter this year and expected margins of about 8 to 10%. He said the firm's Middle East markets are stable and were not slowed by oil price declines.

Two of the firm's six largest contracts awarded in the last year are in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the firm told investors.

Hill reported second-quarter revenue of $181 million, up 13.8% from the same period in 2014. It said profit in that quarter was up 190%. Hill has about 4,000 global employees.

Bulldog principal Goldstein has pointed to the firm's "inefficiencies." Richter had termed Bulldog's proxy fight "self-serving" and something "that would not benefit our stockholders in any way."

But Richter did acknowledge "stockholders' ... concerns to us regarding various corporate governance and board independence issues, and we plan to continue the constructive dialogue that we have developed over the past few months in order to address and resolve these.”

Goldstein told ENR that Bulldog "never endorsed" the DC Capital initial offer, "but we think it demonstrates that Hill shares are undervalued. Management agrees with that assessment."

Hill announced on Aug. 13 that its Brazilian subsidiary Engineering S.A. has received a contract from the city of Rio de Janeiro for project management services on construction of the $260-million Parque Deodoro Olympic Complex, which the firm says will be the second largest competition venue at the 2016 Olympic games in that city. The local organizing committee also awarded Hill on Aug. 11 a project management services contract for temporary infrastructure required to support particular facilities or venues.

The firm also was named last month by developer Lennar Urban as CM consultant for the $1-billion redevelopment of Candlestick Point in San Francisco, a planned residential-retail complex on the 24-acre site of the now-demolished Candlestick Park football stadium.

Goldstein said it was "premature at this point" to discuss possible further actions, which will "depend on Hill's financial results and the ongoing performance of the stock."