Carl Icahn: eBay’s Corporate Governance Is Worse Than Chesapeake’s

Carl Icahn: eBay’s Corporate Governance Is Worse Than Chesapeake’s
Image source: CNBC Video Screenshot

Today on CNBC, Carl Icahn shared his views on a number of things, including eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY), corporate governance issues and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL). Much of the conversation focused on eBay and what he thinks about corporate governance, which is important because of yesterday’s chapter in the public spat between Icahn and Andreessen.

Carl Icahn defends Forest Labs picks

On Tuesday, Andreessen responded to Icahn’s latest letter, pointing the finger regarding corporate governance right back at him. He said Icahn’s views on the topic back in 2011 were the same as his are now. The issue relates to conflicts of interest which Icahn says Andreessen has in connection with eBay, specifically in terms of the Skype transaction.

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On Monday, Andreessen brought up Icahn’s 2011 board nominees for Forest Laboratories, Inc. (NYSE:FRX). At that time, Icahn defended those nominees and their potential conflicts of interest, citing standard procedures for dealing with such conflicts, like having them recuse themselves in areas of conflict.

On CNBC today, Icahn said his nominees to Forest Laboratories, Inc. (NYSE:FRX) “didn’t find it necessary to take a $4.5 billion profit.” He also said they weren’t involved with companies in direct competition with Forest Labs.

Carl Icahn blames Donahoe for eBay problems

He pointed to eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY) board member Scott Cook, who’s with Intuit, which competes directly with eBay’s PayPal. The Department of Justice has stepped in because of an anti-poaching agreement which Cook is accused of pushing through. Icahn said Cook had no right to tell eBay who it could and couldn’t hire and that Donahoe let it go on.

CNBC’s Jim Cramer weighed in on Icahn’s comments later in the day, saying that the West coast and the East coast have different ways of looking at things in terms of corporate governance. He believes that eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY) just wants Andreessen’s experience and is willing to overlook the conflicts, while Icahn wants to see every board member be neutral.

Icahn thinks eBay’s corporate governance is worse than Chesapeake

On CNBC‘s Squawk Box, Icahn said eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY) has the worst corporate governance he’s ever seen—even worse than Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK)’s corporate governance was. That saga dragged on for a long time, as former CEO Aubrey McClendon was found to have used company assets as collateral for personal loans. Other conflicts of interest also came to light during that battle.

The activist investor also said he continues to believe that eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY) should spin off PayPal into a separate company. He doesn’t think Donahoe should have anything to do with running PayPal and sees significant value in a spinoff. Specifically, he thinks it would attract great management for the company and just be good for business in general. He noted that PayPal gave up China to protect eBay, so splitting them may open up new doors for PayPal.

Carl Icahn touts activism

In his interview on CNBC, he also urged other investors to turn activist on companies, saying that corporate governance in America has become “completely dysfunctional.” He said in some cases it is so badly done that all investors have to do is get involved with companies’ boards and then change what’s going on. He said the result is a “much better company” with assets that are much more productive, both for the company and for shareholders.

Carl Icahn also briefly touched on his battle with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL). This was one of the rare cases in which he backed off from his fight. He wanted the company to buy back $150 billion worth of shares as soon as possible but then retreated a bit and tried to get shareholders to vote for a non-binding proposal to buy back just $50 billion worth of shares. After the influential shareholder advisory firm advised against his proposal, he dropped it, and he continues to support Apple. He said he thinks CEO Tim Cook is doing a “good job.” He also thinks that Apple shares are undervalued and that Cook will prove it.

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