Make no mistake about it: Icahn is ruthless. He is turning the screws on Netflix.
Ironically, what Icahn appears to be doing to Hastings is similar to what he did to former Blockbuster CEO John Antioco ahead of and into the Netflix fight.
As I noted when I compared
the Reed Hastings owned-and-controlled Netflix PR machine
to Lance Armstrong's marketing and communications apparatus, Netflix doesn't do anything without carefully-worded, but ultimately meaningless statements or press releases.
That's what we got with the company's official response to the Icahn news. We just can't see Hastings throwing chairs across his office on our screens.
We have many shareholders, now including Mr. Icahn, and we're always open to their perspective on how to build on our success
-- Netflix PR
I call bull.
This is the last thing Hastings needed. It's the last thing he wanted.
Here's a verbal specimen of how Icahn turns the screws,
There's going to be demand for Netflix. I think there will be acquirers that want to buy it. It's just a matter of corporate governance, you know. Do you do what shareholders want, or do you what ... or you don't
I have been beating the drum on "corporate governance" at Netflix for about two years. Relatively speaking, there is none. Icahn knows this.
He also knows Hastings hates when those words come up. Corporate governance -- nothing but a pestilent ankle biter for somebody like Hastings.
He controls Netflix. It's his baby. He wants nobody else involved, particularly a maverick like Icahn. There's no doubt in my mind Hastings is stewing right now.
Icahn painted him into a corner. It's a corner activist shareholders and a handful of writers and analysts have been trying to paint him into for a couple of years.
Will Hastings allow Netflix to act in the best interest of its shareholders
will he fight to the death to keep control of the company, not to mention micromanage every interaction it has with the outside world?
That's the uncomfortable question Netflix has ignored, discounted and deflected for the better part of the two years I have been covering the company.
With Icahn asking, however, Hastings might have no choice but to give real answers followed by actions, not well-scripted but hollow words.
At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this article