Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Is Dick Parsons in Love with the building at Columbus Circle?


(image via huntingtonnews)

In an age where shareholders have become increasingly emboldened against media CEO's (for further reference, see: Eisner, Michael) Carl Icahn's dramatic quest to dethrone Dick Parsons stands supreme in moxy. Borrowing liberally from Viacom's strategy of bisecting, Icahn (along with media mogul manque Bruce Wasserstein) proposed yesterday in his highly anticipated trash-talking press conference that Time Warner cleft itself into bite-sized quarters ("To be more user-friendly").

(A considerable pause) Perfectly calculated to rasp, Vanity Fair released, yesterday, the pillowy-lipped Michael Wolff's Time Warner bomb online just in time to bolster -- or provocatively underlie -- Carl Icahn's case against Time Warner. Wolff's citric missive reads almost anti-Cartesian in its argument against the existence of Time Warner. Says Wolff:

"While Carl Icahn may not know much about the media business, his plan of attack is all media strategy. Indeed�and this isn't a small character note�he has no P.R. firm. He'll go so far as to tell you that he has no P.R. firm because that's his job�the main job, in other words.

"One evening after work I go over to talk to him, and we sit in his office studying a clip of the affable Parsons on CNBC and Icahn's on-air response, appealing in its off-the-cuff-ness (everybody's trying to play the mensch in this drama). Icahn tries to feed me a few lines for a spot of commentary I'm scheduled to do on CNBC�it's his idea that Time Warner is like the PBS series I, Claudius, with Levin as Livia, dispatching everybody who might be strong enough to run ancient Rome and leaving only the hapless Claudius, who is Parsons. (I demur.)

"But it's not about just ink and airtime. His is rather, in a higher media sense, a Zeitgeist play.
Carl Icahn is trying to say what everybody is thinking (a little ahead of someone else's saying it�that's what you get the big bucks for)."

If Parsons is impotent, loveable Claudius and Levin pagan Livia, then doesn't that make Icahn the sanguinary Nero? From the Old Gray Lady:

"Flanked by giant screens that displayed 'The Lazard Report,' Mr. Wasserstein boldly attacked Time Warner and its management, making a move that many on Wall Street believe carries a risk of damage to the reputation of his entire franchise should he lose. Mr. Wasserstein's firm is to be paid more than $5 million for every $1 increase in Time Warner's share price.

"The 342-page report supports Mr. Icahn's view that the company should buy back $20 billion worth of its stock and split into four companies: cable television systems; film and TV including brands like Warner Brothers, HBO and CNN; the publisher Time Inc.; and the Internet company America Online.

"Mr. Wasserstein said he independently came to the same view that Mr. Icahn has been espousing since beginning his campaign in tandem with three hedge funds last August. 'The point is, the stock has gone nowhere and doesn't have the prospect of going anywhere under the current strategy,' Mr. Wasserstein said, adding that he would have given the same advice if he were hired by Time Warner."

At press time Time Warner shares are down .27%

No comments: