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Xerox's corporate raider biographer says "This is fun to Carl"

May 14, 2018 06:56 PM

The Fuji Film deal with Xerox is dead. The Xerox CEO is gone. And behind it all is a billionaire investor named Carl Icahn. News10NBC wanted to know more about this man. 

News10NBC talked to one of the people who know him best, his biographer Mark Stevens. Stevens says what Icahn is doing to Xerox is what he does to make money and have fun. 
    
Mark Stevens, author "King Icahn":
Let me preface by saying Carl is the smartest guy I ever met.
  
News10NBC spoke to Mark Stevens on FaceTime. He was on his couch at his home outside New York City. Stevens wrote the biography on Icahn in 1993 titled "King Icahn." 

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He says Icahn is the only person in the world worth billions of dollars who doesn't actually own a company. 

Mark Stevens, author "King Icahn": He's made his money by doing what he's done to Xerox, which is like a Rhodesian Ridgeback jumping on the back of a CEO and threatening him and surrounding him with legal issues, financial issues.

According to Steven's book and CNN, this is what Icahn has been doing since 1978. For instance, CNN reports Icahn, in the mid-80's, tried to buy out a company called Phillips Petroleum. He earned $50 million selling his shares back to the company. 

In 2010, CNN says Icahn lost $180 million in Blockbuster Video. 

In 2015, CNN says Icahn pressured Apple to buy back stock at higher values. 

Those are just three examples in a 30 year investment career. 

With Xerox, Icahn and another major shareholder attacked Xerox leadership over the proposed deal with Fuji Film. On Sunday, Xerox says the deal is over and CEO Jeff Jacobson resigned. 

Mark Stevens, author "King Icahn": This is fun to Carl. This is fun to Carl to take a company like Xerox which has been a struggling company and has lost its way and be able to play with it.

Brean: Do you think Carl Ichan has any interest in growing the company of Xerox, making it more money or, does he have any interest in doing that? Hiring more people?

Mark Stevens, author "King Icahn": Carl does have more interest in seeing that the value of Xerox in the short-term increases so that his 15% has more value and he can bail and make money.

Brean: Did Carl Icahn win this time with Xerox?

Mark Stevens, author "King Icahn": Yeah sure. So far. So far he's won. 

Xerox is the 7th largest employer in Rochester. The Rochester Business Journal says it has 3,400 employees. 

More Q & A with Mark Stevens: 

Brean: It may be fun for him but it's the livelihood of a lot of people. And they may be nervous about it. Do you think he has the best interest of the employees of Xerox in mind?

Mark Stevens, author "King Icahn": No. No. He doesn't even have the best interest of his own family in mind.

Mark Stevens, author "King Icahn": But Carl doesn't like anyone.

Mark Stevens, author "King Icahn": He's never created anything. He's never built anything. He's just done this. So no he doesn't care about the shareholders either except the one shareholder - Carl Ichan. 

Brean: If you were an employee of Xerox or a shareholder of Xerox, would you be... what would you be feeling right now?

Stevens said he didn't know but said everyone should understand that capitalism is a rough game. Then he criticized Xerox leadership. 

Mark Stevens, author "King Icahn": They certainly share some blame in this. What did they think while they enriched themselves, they allowed a great company to go somewhat kaput or else Carl couldn't damage them.

Stevens said Icahn's goal is to increase Xerox's value in the short term. 

Brean: But you value a company by getting rid of expensive things, like employees.

Mark Stevens, author "King Icahn": Yes, whatever it takes. If he could keep the company still viable and fire every single person but one telephone operator, one receptionist, he would do that, absolutely, in a minute, in a second. 

In his book, Stevens called Icahn a "genius and a bully." Stevens said he's dangerous to CEOs. 

Mark Stevens, author "King Icahn": Don't forget - he is an owner of the company, a major owner. It's his company and the other big shareholders. He owns 15% of the company so he has a right to say I don't like the way this place is being run. We have to balance it, we have to understand that. When you have a great company, public company because you can't do it to a public company, when you have a great company where the management is interested in business and really growing it, loves its employees, takes care of them Carl can't get in.

Brean: But the door was open for him here. 

Mark Stevens, author "King Icahn": Yeah because it's broken. 

Stevens explained why Icahn thought the Fuji Film deal was bad. The deal contained what Stevens called "unaudited financial statements." 

Mark Stevens, author "King Icahn": If someone was going to buy your house and promised that they would buy your house and would pay you a thousand dollars a month for X number of years, but you didn't even know how much money they have and they wouldn't show you their bank records, would you sell them the house?

Stevens says Icahn was a philosophy major at Princeton and won the "senior thesis" which is like being the valedictorian. Stevens encountered the philosophy when talking to Icahn for the book. 

Mark Stevens, author "King Icahn": He just doesn't care about any of them. None. He once told me "I don't like the word 'fair.' Why should a person be fair?"

Mark Stevens, author "King Icahn": He's dangerous mostly to senior managers, CEO types who take their jobs as just an excuse to live high and not manage their companies well. 


 

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Daniella Genovese

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