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Carl Icahn won’t stop until he gets what he wants

(Bloomberg) — The new film features a scene about legendary investor Carl Icahn as he tries to convince him to shake up corporate America despite moving forward over the years and accumulating tens of billions of dollars in personal wealth. Why does he keep his pressure?

The pugilistic billionaire, a history buff to boot, compares himself to Alexander the Great.

“To everyone in the world, he was the best and greatest,” the investor says in the new documentary, Icahn: The Restless Billionaire, which premiered in Feb. 15 on HBO and HBO Max. But like King of Macedonia, Ikan says it’s not so much about the victory as it is the fight. “Everyone in the army worshiped him, but many of them abandoned him because they thought him insane. He just kept going until they killed him, and I think about that. I’m like that.”

Icahn, who will turn 86 on Wednesday, remains one of the most feared active investors on Wall Street (even though he has moved his offices near his residence in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla.). Few investors have the patience, and even less can move the market as fast as he does. same tweet,

The boardrooms of Marvel Entertainment Inc., Netflix Inc., United States Steel Corp., Dell Technologies Inc., and Apple Inc. are just a few that have felt their bite. “There are many good CEOs and boards, but there are far more terrible ones that are hurting our economy,” he says.

Producer and director Bruce David Klein, whose work includes mind of a murderer, Hotel Impossible, and a meatloaf documentary, has done its best to paint a portrait of a man full of contradictions. Now one of the richest people on the planet, Icahn Farr came from modest beginnings in Rockaway, Queens, NY, paid his room and board at Princeton University on his poker winnings, joined the US military, left it ( with more poker wins), and found its way to Wall Street. Many say he is the poster child of bootstrapped capitalism. Others say that he is a shining example of why a person should not have that much money.

Klein has unprecedented access to Icahn, his family members and fellow investors, including the late T. Boone Pickens. Oliver Stone, who wrote his 1987 . The famous character Gordon Gecko was fashioned in wall Street Also makes an appearance, in part, on Icahn. The result is a documentary that does its best to balance Icahn’s image as the “great white shark of capitalism” with the belief that he’s busting the cozy country club boardrooms and management teams that serve everyday shareholders. Goodness populates corporate America: the perennial outsider who found his way.

It is a complex portrait of a man who is at once as charming as he is ruthless. Icahn states in archival footage that his own mother said that he was born with some sort of “warrior gene”.

The film traces their famous feud in the late 1970s from cutting their teeth in the boardroom of the equipment maker Tappan Company to one of their biggest failures: the eventual bankruptcy of Trans World Airlines (TWA) that they took it over. Took it and drove it. Base. It includes colorful anecdotes from Icahn himself in a series of interviews, in which he joins famed Texas attorney Joe Jammel to drink a bottle of vodka at 10:30 a.m. at a fancy New York hotel. claims, while he tried to hit with a hammer. Plan to get Texaco out of bankruptcy. (Icain impersonating Jamel’s Texas accent via his thick Queens accent is so hilarious it requires subtitles).

Icahn has been described throughout the documentary as terrifying, a bully, one of the smartest investors on the planet, and the smartest person you’ve ever met. Perhaps the most colorful detail comes from Pickens, who says he’s a “great person but he’s as smooth as a plaster bathtub.”

Having covered him and his feuds over the past five years, I see this as a fairly accurate portrayal. There are few people I’ve dealt with professionally who have made me laugh as hard as Icon, or pat my head on my desk after a conversation. He’s pushy and demanding, loves to fight – as the documentary attests – but is ultimately steadfast in his beliefs.

The documentary debates extensively whether the kind of activism Icahn does – typically placing small stakes in companies and pushing for changes in the boardroom or management, even the sale of the company. – Good for corporate America or simply a means of enriching oneself at expense. employees, unions and the companies themselves. Icahn makes the case strongly that whether you call him a corporate raider or a shareholder activist, what he does as the “lone wolf of Wall Street” is good for his fellow shareholders.

“It’s kind of a colorful word, ‘corporate raider,’ but that’s far from the truth,” Icahn says in the documentary. “It’s the opposite of what we do. We bring things to the party, we don’t raid them and throw them out. So I guess it was eventually changed to ‘activist’. But activist or raider, I haven’t changed what I’ve done. Call me whatever you want.”

Over the years, the strategy has paid off, with Icahn now having $23.5 billion in personal wealth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

For a film about boardroom battles, the most compelling moments are when the personal, sometimes sentimental, side of Icahn is blown up. Touches including when he talks about his “stormy” relationship with his mother, a schoolteacher who demands his perfection, and his father, a cantor for whom Icahn shows no respect or admiration. Doing moments stand out. (He says he thought his father was a communist and took so little interest in what Icahn did for life that he never asked his only child for his professional specifications until late in life.)

Ikan burst into tears in the film and recalled how they hugged afterward. “I still cry about it,” he says.

When I called Icahn to ask why he agreed to open the curtains on his life in this way, the answer was simple: He had been asked to write a book several times in the past, but he felt a Documentary has offered a painless way. his message out. It is clear from his various interviews in the film that he wanted to tell his story as best as possible. (This might also explain why so much of the film’s b-roll shows off her tennis game: for emphasis she still has).

This isn’t more clear than when the film talks about his relationship with his own family and children. Michelle Icahn Nevin, her daughter, is credited with putting Icahn on Twitter and other social media; The company’s market value increased by $17 billion in one stroke, breaking news of his investment in Apple. Brett Icahn, his son and heir to Icahn Enterprises LP, is credited with opening his father’s eyes to the world of technology, as well as from an investment perspective, including his investments in Netflix and Apple.

Icahn’s wife, Gail Golden-Icahn, jokes with her husband about their tennis games throughout the film. She tells a story when she had Apple CEO Tim Cook over for dinner. She says she served cookies for dessert, which had two bites on either side of the Apple logo “symbolizing the shareholder’s investment.”

When asked what motivates her husband, she hesitates. “It’s not money, oddly enough. You would think it would be money,” she says. “He just gets obsessed with something and lives like a bulldog – and he keeps going until until he gets what he wants.”

(Icahn adds citation in the fifth paragraph. Cook’s spelling in an earlier version was corrected in the last paragraph.)

To contact the author of this story:
Scott Daewoo in New York [email protected]

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