Time Warner Boss Agrees to Meet 'Wrecker' Icahn

16 August 2005

Richard D Parsons, the ambassadorial chairman/ceo of Time Warner, has agreed to meet with former corporate raider Carl Icahn - these days better known as an interventionist shareholder - to discuss the latter's reported plan to break-up TW [WAMN: 11-Aug-05].

Icahn, the globe's sixty-seventh richest man, announced Monday that his hedge fund along with three allies now hold TW stocks and options equivalent to 120 million shares worth over £2.2 billion (€1.78bn; £1.22bn).

Flexing his monetary muscles, Icahn is pressing the media giant to separate its cable business from its content business and repurchase at least $20bn of shares - moves that are at odds with TW's current thinking.

Parsons is widely regarded as America's top corporate janitor following his clean-up of the detritus at the globe's largest media company. He is also admired for his diplomatic skills, exemplified in his ready agreement to meet with Icahn.

His friendly response to the corporate bruiser contrasts with the frequently hostile reception from other companies in which Icahn has held stakes and made similar demands.

Icahn revealed his gameplan to the Financial Times. Although praising TW executives for their "commendable job managing each of their various businesses", he is less complimentary about the measures taken to boost TW's share price, citing its $5bn share buyback scheme and a planned partial spin-off of its cable interests.

These are unlikely to produce the desired results sufficiently quickly for Icahn's liking and would not "enhance values to the degree necessary".

Currently Icahn's muscle doesn't measure up to his mouth, the stake held by his hedge fund equating to just 2.5% of TW's stock. However, he claims to be talking to other "large holders" of Time Warner shares.

Opines one anonymous TW stockholder: "Dick Parsons will want to avoid a proxy fight if he possibly can. Carl Icahn has to be taken seriously because he has in the past built up enough support among shareholders to wage an effective proxy fight."

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff