Carl's Not-So Sour Grapes
The billionaire activist investor announced on Monday he will discontinue his bid to derail Dell's near-$25 billion takeover by company founder Michael Dell and private equity firm Silver Lake Partners, after a string of legal rulings and decisions by Dell's special committee tasked with selling the struggling PC-maker turned against his competing proposals. Icahn's decision to throw in the towel essentially cements Michael Dell's and Silver Lake's takeover of the PC-maker, in what stands to be the biggest leveraged buyout since the financial crisis.
"I realize that some stockholders will be disappointed that we do not fight on. However, over the last decade, mainly through 'activism,' we have enhanced stockholder value in many companies by billions of dollars. We did not accomplish this by waging battles that we thought we would lose," wrote Icahn in a letter to Dell shareholders.Cut the crap, Carl. You didn't lose at all and you know it. The fruit of your Dell wrath is over $70 million smackers, according to the WSJ. So don't try and act like you are slurping sour grapes when everybody knows you're sucking down pricey champagne. As for your snide remark that you intend to call Michael Dell to wish him good luck because "he may need it," well, that certainly belies your stab at nobility. Or at the very least, it comes off as less than caring considering all the jobs soon to be shed at the struggling company you ostensibly were leading a charge to save. Ah, who are we trying to protect Carl? Let's be honest since you won't be. You didn't want to own Dell. You wanted a higher price without getting your hands dirty and that's exactly what you got when Michael bumped up his price to $13.75 a share and added that special 13-cent dividend. So please spare us the heartfelt concession speech. In fact, you wanted to own Dell as much as you wanted to own Yahoo! (YHOO) when you similarly stampeded into that humbled tech giant. Or, in other words, not one darned bit. We all know your tricks, Carl, and operating a company in earnest is not one of them. The only difference is that your dustup with Michael Dell ultimately took root and blossomed into lovely, verdant greenmail (albeit through a circuitous route via a Delaware court), while your battle with Jerry Yang turned out as dry as an Oklahoma dust storm when he refused your wish to sell the company to Microsoft (MSFT). Which brings us to our favorite line in Carl's farewell to Dell note, the one that harkens back to John Steinbeck's tale of itinerant woe. "If you are incensed by the actions of the Dell Board as much as I am, I hope you will choose to follow me on Twitter where from time to time I give my investment insights. I also intend to point out what I consider to be unconscionable actions by boards and discuss what remedies shareholders may take to change the situation," pronounced Icahn. Take heed, all you ordinary Americans out there, driving in your beaten-down cars across this hard land from sea to shining sea, Carl Icahn is there for you. Like the fictional, yet all-too-real migrant worker Tom Joad who vowed to fight social injustice "wherever you can look -- wherever there's a fight... wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy," Carl Icahn will be there, too. He'll be standing by yours and Tom's side wherever a corporate board hoards cash and whenever a CEO attempts to take a company private with a lowball bid. Lest we forget Herbalife (HLF), his most wrathful pursuit of all. Yes, fellow citizens, Carl Icahn will be there for you wherever Bill Ackman is on the other side of the trade.