The Restless Billionaire’ – Deadline
“Activist or raider, call me what you want, I made this money because the system is so bad, not because I’m a genius,” Wall Street legend Carl Icahn says in a teaser trailer released today. today by HBO Documentary Films. Icahn: the restless billionaire aired February 15.
Icahn, who turns 86 next week, grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens, with a schoolteacher mother and a cantor father at the local synagogue. He became a poker whiz to pay his way to Princeton (where he majored in philosophy), dropped out of medical school, joined the military, and eventually made it to Wall Street. There he tracked companies from Lionsgate and former Time Warner, Yahoo (when he was independent) and Ebay, as well as oil companies, airlines and big pharma. In the late 1990s, he took over Marvel Comics in a rivalry with Ronald Perelman.
His playbook: identifying public companies he deems undervalued, buying stocks and pressuring CEOs to make things happen. If they refuse, he has waged massive public relations campaigns to woo shareholders, lead his own slate of alternative directors at annual meetings, and coerce them into doing so if he could.
He calls himself a corporate activist. His mantra: CEOs are overpaid and incompetent, boards are subservient, and shareholders have no recourse. Yes, the companies he targets have gone bankrupt, been taken over, and lost many jobs. But he argues he’s also made a lot of money for investors, including “the little guys” (while amassing tens of billions for himself) over the past half-century.
No CEO wants Icahn – an inspiration to Gordon Gekko, the ruthless corporate thief of Wall Street— come knock. Its targets range from RJR Nabisco to Texaco, TWA to Lyft, Rubbermaid and Herbalife. At times, Icahn is a more passive investor, at one point owning 10% of Netflix. His high-profile investment in Apple in 2013 sent the stock up $17 billion — an effect known on Wall Street as The Icahn Lift.
In a new kind of project, the WSJ reported this week that it recently teamed up with the Humane Society to lobby McDonald’s about where it buys its pork.
The film features Icahn peppered with appearances from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Wall Street director Oliver Stone and a host of business journalists including Andrew Ross Sorkin (New York Times), Cara Lombardo (The Wall Street Journal), Rana Foroohar (FinancialTimes), Scott Wapner (CNBC) and Bryan Burrough (co-author of the legendary Barbarians at the Gate), as well as Icahn’s wife, daughter and son, who is expected to succeed him.
Carl Icahn: the restless billionaire is a production of Atlas Media Corp. It is written, produced and directed by Bruce David Klein; produced by Alexander J. Goldstein; co-produced by Marc Kusnetz and Jim Bruce; executive produced by Jay Firestone. For HBO: Senior Producer, Tina Nguyen; executive producers, Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller.
This debuts Tuesday, February 15 (9-10:45 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO and will be available to stream on HBO Max.