J.C. Penney Co.’s board adopted a “poison pill” shareholder-rights plan that could dilute the influence of two activist investors that recently built sizeable stakes in the department-store operator.

Two weeks ago William Ackman’s hedge fund, Pershing Square Capital Management, andVornado Realty Trust, a real estate investment trust, reported taking respective stakes of 16.5% and 9.9% in Penney. The firms said they intend to work together and expect to meet with Penney’s management, board and other stockholders about its operations, management and future plans.

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