Evelyn Davis, the self-proclaimed “queen of the corporate jungle” who turned public companies’ annual meetings into stages for a theatrical, confrontational and self-promoting version of shareholder activism, has died. She was 89.

She died on Nov. 4 at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, according to a news release by the Evelyn Y. Davis Foundation. No cause was given.

Though known as a gadfly, Davis spent decades pressing serious governance issues, advocating term limits for corporate directors, greater disclosure of executive compensation, independence of accountants and scrutiny of legal bills.

With a nest egg from her neurologist father, plus income from her quirky annual newsletter, “Highlights and Lowlights of Annual Meetings,” she maintained investments of at least $2,000 -- the threshold to offer resolutions -- in 80 to 120 companies at any time, and attended as many as 50 meetings a year. In her thick Dutch accent, she held forth at the microphone as chief executives and chairmen had no choice but to listen.

“You can see I’m in control at these meetings, and I really want to be,” Davis, whose four marriages ended in divorce, was quoted as saying in a 2002 Vanity Fair article. “I enjoy having power over men.”

At a CBS Inc. shareholder meeting in 1995, Davis cheered the imminent buyout by Westinghouse Electric Corp. “Finally we are being liberated from the Tisch regime,” she declared, taunting outgoing CBS chairman Laurence A. Tisch, who told her, “Sit down or be thrown out.”

Pressed Paulson

At the 2000 meeting of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. -- the company’s first, following its transition from a private partnership -- Davis pressed CEO Henry Paulson on the arrest of a part-time computer graphics artist who had been charged with insider trading.

“Which idiot in this company,” she asked, “is responsible for hiring a temp to work on mergers?” No temporary workers are assigned to mergers, Paulson replied.

In 2003, Davis used some of her microphone time at Morgan Stanley’s meeting to demand the firing of Mary Meeker, one of Wall Street’s most outspoken promoters of technology stocks.

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