WASHINGTON - Evelyn Y. Davis is the world's most famous shareholder activist. She's also the most outspoken, the most outrageous, the most intelligent, the most confident, the most charming.
Just ask her.
"There's no other shareholder like me!" she declared in a recent interview. "There's no other woman like me!"
For decades, Mrs. Davis has been buying stock in big companies for the primary reason, it seems, of attending their annual meetings and turning them into her personal stage.
Simultaneously brash and flirty, she heckles CEOs, remarks on their handsomeness, yells at other shareholders and proclaims that she knows more than anyone else in the room.
So there was something missing this year when Mrs. Davis didn't show up at any company's annual meeting. Not Bank of America. Not US Airways. Not Ford or Goldman Sachs or any of the dozens she usually attends.
Age has finally made her do what the most powerful CEOs in America couldn't: Give it a rest.
"I'm not so young anymore," said Mrs. Davis, 82.
This is the first year she won't publish "Highlights and Lowlights," the newsletter in which since 1965 she has reported on company meetings and how she was treated at them, which reporters gave her the most coverage and anything else on her mind.
She peddles it for $600 a copy, minimum two copies, to the same CEOs she harangues.
Never one to doubt her own grandeur, she is fond of introducing herself as queen of the corporate jungle. And the meetings this year, without her? "It must have been awfully dull," she said.
The CEOs of JPMorgan Chase, Macy's and Saks agreed that Mrs. Davis brings entertainment value to shareholder meetings — comments they made to The Associated Press after she called and asked them to.
"Annual meetings are never boring when Evelyn Davis is on the scene," JPMorgan's CEO, Jamie Dimon, said in a statement.
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who has often found himself on the receiving end of an Evelyn Y. Davis tongue-lashing, presided over a calmer, quicker meeting this spring.
"Our annual meeting this year was shorter with less drama," Blankfein said in a statement to the AP. "Without Evelyn, it just wasn't the same."
Other shareholders have varying reactions to her antic. Some applaud, some laugh, others jeer. To some of them, Mrs. Davis is a champion of shareholder rights. To others, she's annoying, even mean.
Although some investors are scared to confront powerful executives, she is anything but. She asks pointed questions about their business decisions, and sometimes tells them they should resign in shame.
She advocates for lower CEO pay, term limits for board members and more disclosure on companies' political spending — issues dear to most shareholder advocates.
Tact, however, is not her strong point.
She interrupts everyone, sitting at the front and yelling out questions that often have nothing to do with the topic being discussed. She tells other speakers they don't know what they're talking about. She implies that the best-looking male CEOs are in love with her.
"I have power over the most important men in the country," she said. "That's pretty good if you can get it, right?"
Last month, she watched on TV as Dimon testified to Congress about an unexpected trading loss at JPMorgan. She called him afterward to tell him how gorgeous he had looked.
Days later, in an interview from her home in the Watergate complex in Washington, Mrs. Davis wondered out loud whether that conversation would make Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan jealous. She has told Moynihan, on more than one occasion, that he resembles her handsome first ex-husband. (She has four.)
"Oh, my God," Mrs. Davis said. "they're going to have a fight there."
Spokesmen for Moynihan and Dimon declined comment.
Mrs. Davis' bully pulpit, the annual shareholder meeting, is the one time of year when CEOs of public companies have to face their shareholders, answer their questions and listen to their complaints. Mrs. Davis' critics — and there are many — say she makes a mockery of shareholder advocacy, grandstanding for attention more than talking about the issues. They get frustrated that she's the only shareholder allowed to break the rules, not waiting her turn to speak or respecting time limits.
She was especially cheeky in her younger days. Like at the General Motors meeting in 1970, where she showed up in a bathing suit to make sure she wouldn't get upstaged by Ralph Nader. (He didn't show.) She wore hot pants to another meeting the next year, an ammunition bandolier to another.
At United Aircraft, she nominated Hank Aaron to the board. It was 1974, the day after he beat Babe Ruth's home run record. Mrs. Davis said she doesn't remember doing that: "I don't know anything about baseball." The AP reported at the time that she did. (Aaron wasn't elected.)
Michael Crosby, a Capuchin Franciscan priest in Milwaukee, has been running into Mrs. Davis at annual meetings for nearly four decades. He attends on behalf of the Interfaith Center