How about a little sympathy here for Carl Icahn? It's not easy being a billionaire activist investor.
That's the overall flavor of two blog postings from Icahn on Thursday in which he criticized The Wall Street Journal for an unflattering portrait of his style and explained why he's not attending Yahoo's shareholders meeting Friday.
After a very high-profile proxy fight that resulted in Icahn and two allies winning seats on Yahoo's board, Icahn now thinks a media circus at the Yahoo meeting wouldn't be a constructive way to achieve his ends.
"The proxy fight is over and it will not do shareholders or Yahoo any good to have the annual meeting turn into a media event for no purpose," he said in one posting.
And reiterating the conciliatory tone he's taken since his truce with Yahoo, he called Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock and Chief Executive Jerry Yang "gentlemen" and said he hoped working together "will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
No doubt Yang and other Yahoo board members will take Icahn seriously in his new role, and indeed Yang said he looks forward to Icahn's "fresh perspective." But I'm not sure how much bonhomie there will be given that Icahn tried to oust Yang as CEO.
According to the settlement between Yahoo and Icahn, he'll join Yahoo's board within a day of Friday's shareholder meeting, replacing Robert Kotick. Then he and the remaining board members will select two new members from the slate Icahn had proposed when he was trying to take over the company, expanding the board from 9 to 11 members.
In taking The Wall Street Journal to task, Icahn argues activist shareholders are a positive force for corporate change and that the media is too cozy with corporate management.
"Historians will marvel at why the press won't write more about the egregious abuses and mismanagement at corporate boards in America and The Wall Street Journal article of July 22 is a good example of this abdication," he said. "Are they intimidated by legions of public relations executives who spend shareholder money to defend bad managers and bad management decisions? Are they worried their access to management will dry up if they give too much ink to corporate critics? Are they beholden to the corporate interests of their parent companies, the media conglomerates? Or is it just easier to toe the company line?"
After defending his record, he added, "Not all of my investments work out, but my record demonstrates that shareholder activism is a viable--and essential--strategy. I applaud those who undertake it, providing it is done intelligently and not recklessly or irresponsibly. It will be a good day for the American media when activism at faltering companies is applauded and not misunderstood or cast in a negative light--as it all-too-often is."