Five weeks ago, Carl Icahn announced he’d be closing the hedge fund he opened in 2004. Was this a sign retirement was next to come, some wondered? Hell no, Icahn recently told a reporter who checked in with the activist investor. “What else would I do? Play shuffleboard somewhere?” Mr. Icahn said from his vacation home in Florida. Carl’s got no time for anything so patently ridiculous, and is in fact busier than ever. What’s he been up to?
* The usual, mostly.
Mr. Icahn has been particularly active in recent years. Since 2004, he has begun 91 activist campaigns involving 79 American companies, according to FactSet SharkRepellent, a firm that tracks corporate takeover defenses and investor activism…Often, all Mr. Icahn has to do is make his interest known to send a stock price rising. Last November, for instance, regulatory filings showed that he had taken stakes in the toy maker Mattel and the building products company Masco. Mattel’s shares jumped to a 52-week high. Masco’s are up about 17 percent since he bought the stake.
* As well as focusing his efforts on beating his son at chess.
Brett Icahn today sits on the boards of several companies in which his father has invested, including the video game maker Take-Two Interactive, American Railcar Industries and the food company Hain Celestial Group. He also runs a hedge fund that returned 50 percent last year…The two often play chess, wagering thousands of dollars a game. Brett plays better. “I can’t figure out how he does it,” his father says, adding that a chess pro was coming over to coach him later that day. “Don’t tell Brett. I don’t want him to know.”
* Calling people on their bull shit.
Mr. Icahn has made more than a few enemies and frenemies in his time. He tangled with Donald Trump last year over three casinos in Atlantic City, a battle of big money and bigger egos. Mr. Icahn eventually lost in court…Mr. Icahn says he likes Mr. Trump — no hard feelings. Then he adds, “I don’t even think he invited me to his daughter’s wedding — so how close can we be?”
* And fighting Bill Ackman to the death.
For the last seven years, Mr. Ackman has contended that Mr. Icahn owes him more than $8 million stemming from an investment in a Dallas real estate company, Hallwood Realty. The New York Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mr. Ackman in August 2005, as did an appellate court in October 2006. A final appeal is pending. But Mr. Icahn vows he will go all the way to the United States Supreme Court. “How many times have judges been wrong? How many people have gone to the death chamber because they’re wrong?” he asked. “Ackman is dead wrong.” Mr. Ackman says he is confident he will prevail. In the meantime, Mr. Icahn must pay him hefty interest while the payment is delayed. “It grows at about 9 percent a year,” Mr. Ackman said.