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Gannett Co., Inc. (GCI): Another Win for Carl Icahn as He Reaches Agreement Regarding Publishing Unit’s Governance

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Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn has recently reached an agreement with Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE:GCI), following which he decided to withdraw his nominees to the company’s board of directors and other proxy proposals. Under the terms of the agreement, Gannett adopted a new corporate governance profile to its publishing company that will be spun-off in 2015 as a separate public company under Gannett’s name. Mr. Icahn owns around 14.97 million shares of Gannett, according to his latest 13F filing, the position representing 6.6% of the company’s outstanding common stock.

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Mr. Icahn is a notorious activist investor, considered the best on Wall Street. Over the years, Mr. Icahn actively participated in the development of many big companies, such as Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX), Hertz Global Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:HTZ), and Family Dollar Stores, Inc. (NYSE:FDO), among others. Among recent moves, Mr. Icahn was the catalyst that led to eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY) spinning-off its PayPal division, which is expected to be completed this year. The investor also urged Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) to take advantage of its large cash position and return more capital to its shareholders. In fact, the list of companies in which Mr. Icahn has gotten involved over the years is large and he won in the majority of cases, gaining substantial profits. Because of his aggresive strategy back in the 1980’s, Mr. Icahn earned the reputation of a “corporate raider”. However, recently Mr. Icahn’s investment portfolio has posted its first annual loss since the financial crisis of 2008. The loss was caused mainly by the fall of oil prices, although it was slowed down by the better performance of Apple’s stock. Icahn Enterprises posted a loss of $373 million in 2014, a significant fall from a profit of $1.03 billion a year earlier. Icahn Enterprises holds around 80% of CVR Energy, Inc. (NYSE:CVI) and 66.45 million shares of Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK), which are two of its largest equity investments in the oil & gas segment.

In Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE:GCI), Mr. Icahn disclosed a 6.6% activist stake in August and announced plans to discuss the split of the company. However, the same day, Gannett announced its intention to separate its publishing unit into an independently-traded public company. Later on, the investor announced that he planned to gain two seats on Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE:GCI)’s board in order to counter some measures that would insulate the board from potential takeover bids. In an interview with CNBC in January, Mr. Icahn said that he acts for the benefit of all shareholders of Gannett and that he will try to negotiate in order to avoid launching a long and expensive proxy fight.

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