Who is Carl Icahn 101: Everything You Wanted to Know

By Matteo Drelli. Updated Sep 3, 2023

Carl Icahn smiling

Meet Carl Icahn, an American financial wizard. Born in 1936, he is the big boss of Icahn Enterprises, a company that does a little bit of everything. The company is stationed in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida. Carl likes to buy big chunks of companies that he thinks can do better. Then he nudges the bosses to make those better changes.

Carl Icahn isn't just any investor; he's a trendsetter. Many call him one of Wall Street's greatest. He was a pioneer in becoming an "activist shareholder." That means he makes changes happen in the companies he invests in.

Back in the 1980s, Carl got the label of a "corporate raider." Why? He made a ton of money by taking over Trans World Airlines and selling its assets.

When it comes to wealth, Carl is in the big leagues. He's a regular on the Forbes 400 list. His net worth? Anywhere from $8.1 billion to a jaw-dropping $24 billion!

Since 2011, Carl has shifted gears. He no longer manages money for other people. But you can still get a piece of the Icahn action by investing in Icahn Enterprises.

What is Carl Icahn early life and education?

Carl Icahn didn't start with billions; he came from humble beginnings. Born in Brooklyn, New York, he grew up in an Ashkenazi Jewish family. Far Rockaway in Queens was his stomping ground, and Far Rockaway High School was where he honed his skills.

Carl's dad, Michael, was a unique guy—a cantor turned atheist who ended up as a substitute teacher. His mom, Bella, was also in the teaching field.

Carl wasn't just any student. He went to Princeton University and graduated with a degree in philosophy in 1957. Imagine that! His senior thesis even tackled complex ideas about empiricism.

Carl had a brief stint at New York University's School of Medicine. But guess what? He left after just two years to serve in the military reserve. That's right—Carl Icahn's road to Wall Street had a few interesting twists and turns!

Carl Icahn's Business Career

Carl Icahn's Business Career from 1961 to 2005

Carl Icahn's business career is nothing short of astonishing. From stockbroking to corporate takeovers, he's done it all. Let's break down the highlights of his journey from 1961 to 2005.

Carl kicked off his career in 1961 at Dreyfus Corporation as a stockbroker. By 1963, he was an options manager at Tessel, Patrick & Co., and then moved to Gruntal & Co.

In 1968, Carl got serious. With $150,000 of his own money and a $400,000 boost from his uncle, he bought a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. That's how Icahn & Co. was born, focusing on risk arbitrage and options trading.

1978 was a year of triumph for Carl. He took over Tappan and sold it to Electrolux, doubling his money with a $2.7 million profit. That was just the beginning.

In 1985, Carl acquired half of Trans World Airlines. By 1988, he owned it all. He sold off its parts to pay off debt, earning him the "corporate raider" title. In the end, Carl made a $469 million profit but left TWA with a significant debt.

Carl made waves with bold actions. Like his failed $8 billion takeover attempt of U.S. Steel in 1986. But he bounced back, selling his stake in Texaco for a massive $700 million profit in 1989.

The '90s were bustling for Carl. He bought and sold stakes in companies like Pan Am, Marvel Comics, and RJR Nabisco. His eye for opportunity never dulled.

The early 2000s saw Carl form a hedge fund, Icahn Partners, with $3 billion. He took stakes in Blockbuster Video and Time Warner. And when Mylan tried to acquire King Pharmaceuticals in 2004, Carl stepped in, buying shares and urging shareholders to vote "no." The deal fell apart in 2005.

Carl Icahn's Business Career from 2005 to 2010

Continuing his financial adventures, Carl Icahn made significant moves from 2005 to 2010 that prove his eye for business. Let's dive into the details.

In 2005, Carl set his sights on XO Communications. Even though he was already chairman and a large shareholder, a court ruling blocked him from buying the wired part of the business. This resulted in penalties for Carl, but he remained undeterred.

Carl became the second-largest shareholder of Take-Two Interactive in 2009. The video game publisher caught his interest, and his stake rose to 11.3%.

In 2007, Carl bought stakes in Telik, a cancer research firm, and WCI Communities, a real estate company. He also took a slice of Motricity, a mobile content tech provider, proving his interest in varied industries.

Despite owning 3% of Motorola, Carl lost a bid for a board seat in 2007. He also engaged in a legal battle with Motorola to gain four seats on their board.

Carl made a billion-dollar profit by selling his casino interests in 2007. He also supported Oracle's acquisition of BEA Systems, in which he had a significant stake.

In 2008, Carl bought shares in Yahoo! and even forced changes in its board. He later resigned from the board and reduced his stake considerably.

Carl was no stranger to courtrooms and business feuds, from suing Realogy over a debt swap to fighting a proxy battle for Amylin.

In 2010, Carl acquired the Fontainebleau Las Vegas for $150 million and took Tropicana Casino & Resort Atlantic City out of bankruptcy with a group of lenders.

By May 2010, he purchased an 8.54% stake in Lawson Software, wrapping up a decade full of calculated risks and bold moves.

💡 Did you know? 💡

Carl Icahn launched "The Icahn Report," a blog, in June 2008. Here, he shares his thoughts on the state of corporate governance in America, proving that he's not just about buying and selling—he wants to influence change in the business world.

Carl Icahn's Business Career from 2010 to 2015

As the new decade rolled in, Carl Icahn's moves from 2010 to 2015 showed he was still a financial force to be reckoned with. Let's break it down.

In 2010, Icahn started investing in Mentor Graphics, amassing a 14% stake by July. Despite Mentor's efforts to fend him off with a shareholder rights plan, Carl made a $1.86 billion cash offer for the company in 2011. It didn't go through, but it was a headline-grabbing effort.

2011 also saw Carl making a $10.2 billion offer for Clorox. By February, he owned more than 9% of the company, showing his resolve.

Icahn turned to the media sector and grabbed a 10% stake in Netflix in 2012. His investment choices kept proving diversified and forward-thinking.

He aimed for the board of Oshkosh Corporation in 2012 and was listed as one of the 40 highest-earning hedge fund managers by Forbes in 2013. Around this time, he also had legal wrangles with Dell over a buyout bid.

Carl built a 9.2% stake in Nuance Communications by April 2013 and increased his Apple Inc. shares to 4.7 million by October. He also persuaded eBay to spin off PayPal, all while investing another half-billion in Apple.

In 2013, Icahn acquired a significant stake in Talisman Energy and a 12.5% interest in Hologic, a medical device company. Although his energy investment faced a setback, his medical play showcased his risk-taking spirit.

By October 2014, the Talisman Energy stock plummeted 71%, prompting Carl to sell. Yet, these years added more chapters to his storied career, making him a name synonymous with audacious business maneuvers.

Carl Icahn's Business Career from 2010 to today

Carl Icahn continued to make waves in the investment world from 2015 onwards. Let's delve into the highlights.

In May 2015, Carl Icahn took a $100 million ride with Lyft. This investment marked his entry into the gig economy, a sector gaining fast traction.

Carl sold the unfinished Fontainebleau Resort in Las Vegas in August 2017 for $600 million. It was more than four times what he originally paid.

During 2015-2016, he also invested in companies like PayPal, Xerox, Gannett Company, and Cheniere Energy. He even tried to acquire Pep Boys.

He sold his Apple shares in 2016, citing China concerns. However, he significantly raised his stake in Herbalife Nutrition to 21%.

He shut down Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City in 2016. Around the same time, he increased his stake in Hertz Corporation. Unfortunately, in May 2020, he had to sell his Hertz stake at a significant loss.

As of 2022, Carl tried to shake things up at McDonald's, nominating people for board positions. However, his efforts weren’t met with much shareholder support.

In May 2023, Hindenburg Research claimed that Icahn Enterprises was overvalued. The news hit the company's share price hard.

💡 Did you know? 💡

The name Carl Icahn became even more of a hot topic in 2017 when he sold the Fontainebleau Resort in Las Vegas for $600 million. It wasn’t just a sale; it was a huge win, making him four times what he paid for it. Now that's how to play the real estate game in Sin City!

Carl Icahn's Stance on Policy and Economy

Carl Icahn is more than just a financial wizard; he's also been quite vocal about his political and economic views. Let's unpack his influence on public policy and how it reflects his economic philosophies.

In 2016, Carl Icahn endorsed Donald Trump for President and went big with a $150 million super PAC. The focus? Corporate tax reform, especially tax inversions that lead U.S. companies abroad.

Trump once considered nominating Icahn as the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. That didn't happen, but Icahn stayed close to the seat of power.

From December 2016 to August 2017, Icahn served as a special advisor to President Trump on regulatory reform. He quit this role to avoid any conflict with Neomi Rao, an administrator focused on regulatory matters.

Icahn has been active in influencing energy policies too. He interviewed Scott Pruitt for the EPA and discussed ethanol rules that would directly benefit his business. His CVR Energy stocks even doubled after Trump's election.

Icahn avoided a $6 million loss by selling steel-sensitive stock just before the Trump administration announced a 25% steel tariff. Talk about timing!

Carl Icahn's involvement in public policy shows his knack for leveraging economic trends for financial gain. Whether it's tax reform or regulatory change, he always seems to be a step ahead.

Carl Icahn's Personal Life

Curious about the man behind the billion-dollar deals? Let's talk about Carl Icahn's personal life and how it shapes who he is.

Back in 1978, a 41-year-old Icahn met Liba Trejbal, a ballerina. Soon, she became pregnant. They tied the knot in 1979 after signing a prenup. Fast forward to 1993, and Liba filed for divorce, questioning the prenup. They settled the matter in 1999. They have two kids, Brett and Michelle.

In 1999, Icahn remarried. This time to Gail Golden, his longtime assistant. Gail had two children from her prior marriage, adding to Icahn's blended family.

Family might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Carl Icahn, but it's clear he values those close relationships. Whether it's navigating complex prenups or marrying someone he worked closely with, Icahn's personal life is as interesting as his professional one.

Carl Icahn's Philanthropy

Carl Icahn is not just about big investments and business. He also cares about giving back. Let's dive into how he does that.

Ever heard of the Icahn Scholar Program at Choate Rosemary Hall? That's Carl Icahn's doing. He pays for 10 students each year to get a full-ride at this prep school. That's about $400,000 every year!

He's also a huge supporter of science. Princeton University, his alma mater, has a genomics lab with his name. He didn't stop there. He has made big donations to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. They even renamed their School of Medicine and a genomics institute after him.

His foundation, the Children's Rescue Fund, also plays a role. It has built homes for homeless families in The Bronx and runs two more shelters in NYC.

In 2010, Icahn promised to give away more than half of his fortune by joining the Giving Pledge. And he's even pushed McDonald's to be more ethical in its pork sourcing.

💡 Did you know? 💡

Icahn's philanthropy isn't just about throwing money around. He has joined hands with the Humane Society to push for ethical animal treatment. Next time you think of Carl Icahn, remember he's not just a business tycoon, but a philanthropist making a difference.

Carl Icahn and Horse Racing

Carl Icahn isn't just a wizard of Wall Street; he's also dabbled in the glamorous world of horse racing.

Back in 1985, Icahn spent millions to kickstart Foxfield Thoroughbreds, a horse breeding operation. He broke records by paying $7 million for Miss Oceana, a mare with a lineage of champions. But that wasn't just for show; his horse Meadow Star won big at the 1990 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

In the early '90s, Foxfield switched gears. Instead of racing, they focused on breeding top-tier horses. Over time, they bred more than 140 high-grade racehorses.

Fast forward to 2004, and Icahn closed Foxfield. He sold off all his breeding stock. But his impact on the horse racing world still stands, proving that Carl Icahn knows how to pick a winner, whether it's stocks or stallions.

Debunked Myths of Carl Icahn

"Icahn is just a ruthless corporate raider."While Icahn gained fame as a "corporate raider" in the '80s, he's since become a diversified investor, holding stakes in various sectors. He's more of an "activist investor" now.
"He's all about making quick bucks."Actually, Icahn often holds onto his investments for years, sometimes even decades. He seeks long-term value.
"Icahn is purely profit-driven, with no ethical considerations."In fact, Icahn has shown ethical concerns, such as advocating for better treatment of animals in the food industry.
"He has no interest in philanthropy."Wrong. Icahn has pledged to give away more than half of his fortune and has already made large donations to educational and medical institutions.
"Icahn is not involved in any businesses outside of Wall Street."Far from it. Icahn has invested in various industries, including horse racing and even had a role in public policy.

Frequently Asked Questions About Carl Icahn

Who does Carl Icahn support?

Carl Icahn is known for his political involvement. He endorsed Donald Trump in the 2016 United States presidential election. Beyond politics, Icahn has supported multiple causes through his philanthropy. For example, he has made large donations to his alma mater, Princeton University, and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. He's also pledged to give away more than half of his fortune. His activism even extends to ethical issues, like pushing for better animal welfare. So, in summary, Icahn supports a mix of political, educational, medical, and ethical causes.

When did Carl Icahn buy Trump casino?

Carl Icahn acquired the Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City in 2016. He later closed it in October of the same year, citing a loss of $350 million and failure to reach a deal with union workers.

How successful is Carl Icahn?

Carl Icahn is extremely successful as an investor and businessman. He's known for his savvy in turning around struggling companies and has amassed a fortune estimated in the billions. In Forbes' list of highest-earning hedge fund managers, he's often featured. Icahn has influential stakes in major companies and has been a key player in various high-profile business deals. His impact on Wall Street is significant, cementing his legacy as one of the most successful investors of his time.

Carl Icahn Quotes

Here are some of Carl Icahn's most famous quotes.

I like winning. There's also a certain joy in it. I feel fulfilled by it.

You learn in this business: It you want a friend, get a dog.

Anyone that makes me a quarter of a billion dollars, I like.

To see more Carl Icahn quotes, we recommend visiting the Carl Icahn Quote section in Quotes Analysis.

We hope we have been helpful to you in this "Who is Carl Icahn" article, and we hope you have a better understanding of who Carl Icahn is!