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Icahn pushes for new directors at Time Warner

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn Tuesday pushed for new independent directors on the board at Time Warner Inc., stepping up his criticism of the strategy at the giant media conglomerate.
/ Source: Reuters

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn Tuesday pushed for new independent directors on the board at Time Warner Inc., stepping up his criticism of the strategy at the giant media conglomerate.

In an open letter to Time Warner shareholders, Icahn challenged past moves at Time Warner, from selling Warner Music Group and Comedy Central at discounted prices to the failure to acquire MGM, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"Unless this legacy of poor decision-making is fully recognized and the Board is held accountable, the dismal record of mistakes and inaction will continue to the detriment of shareholders," the letter said.

Icahn, backed by a group of investment companies, also reiterated his past recommendations that Time Warner initiate a $20 billion share buyback and spin off its Time Warner Cable unit.

A representative of Time Warner was not immediately available for comment.

Icahn, known as a corporate raider and for his agitating tactics at Blockbuster Inc. and Kerr-McGee Corp. , revealed his interest in Time Warner last month.

He indicated that he would seek a seat on the company's board and that he and three hedge funds had formed a coalition representing 2.6 percent of Time Warner's shares.

Icahn said in Tuesday's letter that Time Warner's "cardinal sins" date back to its merger with AOL, which led to the loss of more than 75 percent of market value over two years.

He said 12 of the 15 current Time Warner board members, including Chief Executive Richard Parsons, supported the merger and questioned whether they should still be "steering the corporate ship."

When pointing out what he calls Time Warner's past failures, Icahn also noted the company's bloated cost structure, saying that his coalition intends to hire an industry consultant to analyze and compare Time Warner's costs to its peers.

Icahn concluded that the company's past missteps indicate the need for new management.

"But whether or not you agree with our proposals, we believe the simple truth is that Time Warner is a company sorely in need of new shareholder representation on the Board," the letter said.