Interventionist shareholder Carl Icahn is cranking up the heat on media US media giant Time Warner.

In a letter to shareholders he accuses the company of a "dismal record of mistakes and inaction" since its merger with internet portal America Online in 2000.

The move is the latest tactic in Icahn's war of attrition against TW. His aim is to force the company to spin off its entire cable television operation and to buy back $20 billion (€16.27bn; £10.96bn) in shares.

Neither of these strategies is currently favored by chairman Richard Parsons or the TW board.

Icahn's letter questions why a "majority of the same directors who signed off on the disastrous AOL merger [are] still steering the corporate ship?"

The billionaire financier, who with his hedge fund associates holds a 2.8% stake in TW, also slams the company for selling Warner Music Group and a half-interest in cable channel Comedy Central at "fire sale prices" in 2003.

In addition he argues that the company's failure to acquire the MGM film studio last year demonstrated "management's habitual excess deliberation and inability to act decisively on behalf of shareholders". And he is critical of the corporate cost structure, including TW's new headquarters in New York.

Icahn aims to shoehorn new directors onto the TW board [WAMN: 13-Sept-05] to ensure implementation of the company's pledge to increase shareholder value.

TW, meanwhile says the accusations are revisionist history that does not take into account the strides the company and board has made over the last three years.

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff