BOSTON (TheStreet) -- If you're billionaire investor Carl Icahn smarting from defeats in trying to shake up Clorox (CLX) - Get Clorox Company Report and Lions Gate (LGF) , it makes sense to double down and take on two chief executive officers rather than one.
That's why the rumors of Icahn's interest in
Research In Motion
make sense, even if they're not true. Icahn wasn't immediately available to comment for this story, but with the rapid rate of CEO turnover in the tech industry, one has to believe the sector is ripe for more shareholder activists like Icahn to put the heat on top bosses.
We've already seen
dump CEO Leo Apotheker and
unceremoniously kick Carol Bartz to the curb within the past month. Activist shareholders are warming up:
hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb took a large stake in Yahoo before viciously taking on the company's board of directors in a war of words.
Enter Carl Icahn. There's no evidence yet that Icahn is buying shares of Research In Motion, but the fact that RIM shares rallied more than 5% on the market rumor shows investors' faith in the two co-CEOs of the BlackBerry maker. Jim Balsillie and Michael Lazaridis have come under pressure as RIM's stock has plunged 60% this year.
The company, which once held a big market share for handsets, has fallen behind as companies like
have developed more popular handsets.
If the rumor is true and Icahn has started investing in RIM, it will be fun to watch for vintage Carl as he battles against not one but two co-CEOs who investors argue have been ineffective. It has been widely reported that Lazaridis said internally that no consumer wants the equivalent of a personal computer on a phone.
The sharpest criticism has been reserved for Balsillie. In July,
contributor Eric Jackson chastised
, blaming the slow death of RIM on that fantasy.
Icahn's motives aren't known yet, but it's not hard for analysts to guess what he may force upon the company.
"If he has taken a position, he may likely push for a board seat, and compel the company to peruse value-creating strategies such as a sale of the company, 'Split the Berry' break-up, and others," Mike Abramsky, a research analyst at RBC Capital Markets, wrote in an email.
Icahn hasn't had the best luck recently. His bid to force an acquisition of household products maker
, even after he raised his offer price and worked on financing for the deal. A month ago, Icahn walked away from his proxy battle with
, selling his stake of 11 million shares back to the company at a slight discount.
Mobile handset companies aren't a new field for Icahn. In 2007, Icahn urged shareholders to supplant
Motorola's then-CEO Ed Zander
. Zander eventually stepped down that same year, although Icahn was unsuccessful in landing a seat on Motorola's board. The company eventually split in two, a move Icahn had pushed for, and the handset business was acquired by
earlier this year.
The Wall Street Journal
pinned Icahn's stake in Motorola Mobility at $1.34 billion, based on Google's buyout price.
If his battle against Motorola is a blueprint for how he could approach RIM, perhaps we could see Icahn once again buy a
The Wall Street Journal
as part of his assault on Balsillie and Lazaridis.
-- Written by Robert Holmes in Boston
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