Carl Icahn has done a lot for shared holders at close to a dozen companies over the last year or so.
He continues to put pressure on Motorola (MOT) to increase its dividend or break itself into pieces. Many would argue that the pressure he bought on Time Warner (TWX) caused that company to spin out its cable unit. He has successfully pushed for the sale of biotech firm Biogen Idec (BIIB).Those shares are up 20% today, He urged BEA Systems (BEAS) to put itself up for sale. Oracle (ORCL) has made a bid. That moved the shares from under $14 to over $18 last week.
Perhaps it is time for Mr. Icahn to turn his attention to another undervalued company, Yahoo! (YHOO). For $1.5 billion, he could pick up about 4.9% of the company without having to disclose his full intentions.
An outsider like Icahn may be the only person who can get Yahoo! off the dime. The 100 days program by new management has not yielded much. One Wall St. analyst suggested breaking up the company. There has also been a suggestion that Yahoo! outsource its search functions to Google (GOOG) and cut 20% of its staff to improve earnings.
According to the last Yahoo! proxy, Legg Mason owned almost 6% of the the firm. Founder David Filo owns 6%. No other person or institution owned over 5%. A number of large funds probably own 2% to 3% each.
There are a several things that Icahn could ask for. He could push for the company to take on debt and use some of its $5 billion in cash and long term investments to start to return money to shares holder. If Yahoo! took on enough debt, it could probably buy-back a third of its shares and still have manageable debt service.
Yahoo! needs some significant shaking up from the outside. Icahn would be just the man to do it.
Douglas A. McIntyre