New York CNN Business  — 

Forget about all the boardroom intrigue on “Succession” and “Billions.” Real-life companies are facing a lot more drama than anyone on those popular shows.

Struggling companies have one more reason to watch their backs. Several of them now have to contend with pesky activist shareholders – the so-called Barbarians at the Gate that made waves in the 1980s by going after Corporate America – looking to make big changes.

One investor wants Peloton (PTON) to dump its CEO and try and sell itself as the company’s PR woes spin out of control and the stock price has plummeted. Shares of Peloton (PTON) rose nearly 2% Monday even as the broader market tumbled.

Floundering retailer Kohl’s (KSS) is the target of activists that want a shakeup. Kohl’s (KSS) has reportedly gotten a buyout bid from a group led by Starboard Value, the hedge fund famous for shaking up management (and food) at Olive Garden owner Darden Restaurants (DRI) a few years ago.

Kohl’s stock surged more than 30% on the news on Monday.

And shares of Unilever (UL) soared 8% Monday following reports that Nelson Peltz, the Wendy’s (WEN) chairman and legendary activist investor known for targeting Oreo maker Mondelez (MDLZ) and Procter & Gamble (PG) (among many other firms), is building a stake in Unilever (UL).

All three companies have problems that make them attractive to activists that want to push for big changes.

Angry activists targeting brand name underperformers

Peloton’s stock has plummeted due to concerns that demand for its expensive bikes and treadmills has dried up.

Kohl’s has been a retail have-not for years. This is not the first time an activist has come knocking to shake things up at the retailer.

And Unilever just had its bold $68 billion bid to buy the consumer healthcare unit of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) rejected by the drug maker. (Ironically enough, another well-known activist firm, Elliott Management, is agitating for changes at GSK.)

But these aren’t the only prominent companies that have activist investors circling them like a scavenger does with carrion.

Activist firm Jana Partners wants Macy’s (M) to split its digital operations from its brick-and-mortar retail stores…even though the stock enjoyed a huge comeback in 2021.

Meawhile, hedge fund Mantle Ridge wants changes at Dollar Tree (DLTR), which is facing angry consumers after hiking prices to $1.25.

Activist investors have also gone after oil giant Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA) and Twitter (TWTR) in the past few years too. So far, Shell has resisted activist calls to break up. And while Twitter (TWTR) reached a truce with activists in 2020, one of the things that some activists had been calling for has finally happened.

Jack Dorsey, who had been running both Twitter and mobile payments giant Block (formerly known as Square (SQ)) despite activist calls to pick one over the other, stepped down as Twitter CEO last year.

It just goes to show that when activists exert enough pressure, they often eventually get what they want.