March 15, 2006
Carl Ichan Meets His
Match With Korean Pranksters
is known for being an activist investor. Last year’s confrontation with
Time Warner was only the latest example of Icahn’s aggressive efforts to
promote his agenda and his interests.
And Carl is
a billionaire, so this thousandaire is loathe to criticize too harshly.
may have met his match with the people who dominate the cigarette market
in South Korea. Yes, I’m sure you lay awake many nights wondering about
the twists and turns of the cigarette market in South Korea. Who
doesn’t? Well, apparently lots of people who don’t have as much money as
Carl, and that is truly lots of people.
been aggressively buying up stock in KT&G Corp., the dominant cigarette
maker in South Korea, where one in four people are smokers. Hey, if you
had Kim Jung Il just across the border, you’d smoke too. And you might
as well score your smokes from KT&G, which Carl is now trying to buy
lock, stock and barrel.
complete quite a journey from the days not long ago when Icahn and his
allies were fighting just to end a monopoly on tobacco operations by the
South Korean government. From nationalized industry to private industry
to my industry. Mine all mine. Now that’s what I call lighting the
tricky Koreans have a funny way of laying out the red carpet for the
prospective new boss. With a shareholders meeting set for March 17, with
a board of directors slate to be decided – St. Patrick’s Day isn’t a day
off in South Korea? – foreign investors like Icahn obviously want to
vote electronically, because it’s not that convenient to show up in
Seoul. What if Time Warner tries some funny stuff while Icahn isn’t
there to argue with them?
told foreign investors they could vote electronically from off site any
time through Friday, March 10. One problem, though. They changed the
date to Thursday, March 9, and didn’t tell Carl. Those wacky Koreans!
That’s almost as good as the time they short-sheeted Icahn’s bed at
investor camp. (Of course, he then bought the cabin and made them all
sleep in the broom closet, but still, pranks are fun.)
their flummoxation when they tried to send in their vote on the 10th.
“Hello? This is the people who represent Carl Icahn. We’d like to vote
for all the people supported by Carl Icahn.”
sorry, that was yesterday.”
trying to vote electronically? That was yesterday.”
“What?!?!?!?! We were told we could do it today!”
you could have done it today, but today it’s changed so it’s yesterday.
We are very sorry for the inconvenience. Thank you for smoking KT&G
brand cigarettes. We bet you’re reaching for one right now.”
there’s no Korean translation for that. Have a nice St. Patrick’s Day.”
changed it to today. No one told you?”
tells me Carl will find other ways to get what he wants. He wants KT&G
to sell off a bunch of real estate, do a separate listing for its
ginseng division and generally do stuff to boost his share price.
sell him the company.
Then he can
make the electronic vote-taking people sleep in the broom closet. And
not a non-smoking one. But until then, we are reminded that not even
Carl Icahn gets everything he wants immediately all the time. There are
always little tricks and pranks to complicate a billionaire’s inevitable
journey to his preferred destination.
© 2006 North Star
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