With the Form 4 Filing of Chuck Royce advising that 499,351 have just been purchased would seem to put Saba behind the 8 ball.
I have to think the purchase of the Innisfree proxy service was money well spent. I suspect they were able to advise how many shares of the cef would need to be bought to shift the odds heavily towards approval of the contract sale.
Saba will likely face some tough choices now whether to liquidate their sizable positions or try & negotiate with Franklin & Royce. I doubt Royce is going to be too charitable towards them since he's been forced to layout such a large sum of money as an investment.
I notice that the share price paid was the NAV rather than the prevailing market price so I don't know what that means in this context. But I surely would think its done to allow Royce the opportunity to vote the shares at the special meeting.
I think it must have been some kind of private transaction that did not affect the tape. There's the high price of $14.28, as you say. Plus the volume on 9/2 was less than 40,000 shares.
If the shares were purchased from one of the activists - e.g. Saba or Bulldog - that would further swing voting in management's favor.
This purchase explains why the record date for the special meeting was moved to 9/8, allowing the portfolio manager to vote the newly purchased shares.
Since it was the nav for the day of reported purchase I am thinking it came from unissued shares but it could have been bought from the activists as u have suggested. If it came from the activists I'd be inclined to call it greenmail, if it came from unissued shares the buy will boost the AUM for RGT. With an increased Chuck Royce position it could possibly mean that the cef would get more attention from him in the future which I believe would make for the likelihood of better returns but only over the long term. In the near term the activists will no doubt be disgusted.
As of 6/30/20, SABA held 1,443,110 shares and Bulldog held 640,301 shares. The only other institution that would hold enough share was Raymond James but it probable on behalf of their clients and not readily available. Although I purely speculating, the only logical seller would be Bulldog. I think selling 78% of their shares at NAV today rather than waiting months for a likey liquidation may make sense for Bulldog. Royce on the other hand bought 4.75% of the CEF at about 10% over the current market price or an out of the pocket expense of about 0.5% of the fund's assets for a chance to hold on to a stream of perpetual 1% annual management fees. Win-Win for Bulldog and Royce. I suspect this extra 4.75% of the votes will put them over the top, however, if it does not, and the fund gets liquidated anyway, Royce will get out at NAV. So it's a heads I win, tails I don't lose but break-even for Royce.