Interventionist shareholder Carl Icahn, the thorn in the flesh of media giant Time Warner, is hatching a more radical plan for the company than previously proposed.

The billionaire financier, who recently engaged the services of investment bank Lazard and its deal-making chairman Bruce Wasserstein in his campaign to boost TW share values [WAMN: 30-Nov-05], is reported to be seeking a split of the company into four distinct units.

Until now Icahn and his hedge fund associates have been gunning for a $20 billion (€16.97bn; £11.62bn) share buyback and a complete spin-off of TW's cable assets in a bid to lift its sagging stock market value. The US-headquartered titan has put in place a $12.5bn buyback and has proposed a 16% cable spin-off.

The UK's Financial Times newspaper reports that Icahn and Wasserstein are approaching unidentified media executives to join a slate of eight rival board directors. It quotes an unnamed source: "The kind of people we are looking for are those that believe Time Warner's business would work better as separate entities."

The proposed breakup would result in four companies: Time Warner Cable; the AOL internet business; the Time Inc publishing unit; and content activities comprising Warner Brothers studios and cable channels such as HBO and CNN.

Icahn and Wasserstein are remaining tight-lipped.

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