Netflix CEO Reed Hastings Hates Carl Icahn Right Now

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Money. Power. Testosterone. Drive. Ambition. Confidence. Ego.

Guys like billionaire Carl Icahn and Netflix ( NFLX) CEO Reed Hastings come loaded with all or some combination of the above.

That's why there's a serious backstory that I am confident brews behind the scenes vis-a-vis Icahn's decision to purchase a 10% stake in NFLX.

Let's keep this as straightforward as possible because it's not too complicated.

Icahn used call options that expire in September 2014, not stock, to assume a majority of his stake. That's different than taking direct ownership via stock, but, ultimately, has the same effect. Netflix knows Icahn can exercise his option to buy shares at any time.

I'm not sure he will.

While the hostile takeover route for which Icahn is known could come into play, at this point he is well on his way to accomplishing his goals.

First, I have yet to see anybody connect Icahn's move to his history, via Blockbuster, with Netflix.

If you haven't read Gina Keating's book, Netflixed: The Epic Battle For America's Eyeballs, you should. She details, among many other things, the fascinating story of Blockbuster's fight with Netflix, explaining Icahn's involvement as a Blockbuster investor.

That affair did not end well. Netflix won. Blockbuster lost. A few more dollars from Icahn and the inverse could have come true.

It's not crazy to argue that Icahn senses unfinished business. Plus, this is what he does - wields his big swinging (cough, cough) pocketbook to put companies into situations that will make him money, on paper and when it's time to cash out.

Don't follow Icahn into a trade unless you're already a successful day/swing trader with your own edge. He runs in a different world than most of us. He can handle a ton more risk because he's filthy rich.

This is not a game for the individual investor.

I'm moderately bullish NFLX -- have been for several weeks now -- but I never buy stocks because I think they might get bought out (don't misread Icahn here; he has power and influence that you and I simply do not have). You'll lose 10 times for every time you win with that method. Only buy NFLX if you believed before Icahn entered the picture.

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, via Bloomberg:

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 or 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.

Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.

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