Topper says Blockbuster will stick with its plans

WASHINGTON — Blockbuster topper John Antioco played down recent criticisms by activist investor Carl Icahn and assured employees that the video rental company is on track toward long-term growth.

In the statement, included with a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Monday, Antioco said he believes the company will be well positioned for 2006 and beyond by accomplishing its current goals of boosting membership and online subscriptions.

“Regardless of reports or rumors that may persist regarding what others may believe is the right approach to our business, I and our executive management team remain committed to the plans we have laid out — plans designed to build long-term success,” Antioco said in the statement.

Icahn has criticized Blockbuster for excessive executive pay, wasteful spending and a botched attempt to acquire rival Hollywood Entertainment. He is urging the company’s shareholders to support his slate of director candidates — including himself — at this year’s annual meeting.

The Blockbuster’s CEO, in his statement, described Icahn as a “well-known Wall Street figure that we believe is looking at our business in a different way than we are.”

Antioco said Blockbuster has invested cash flow back into the business to build long-term shareholder value and taken several “promising” steps as a result, including the elimination of late fees. Antioco also said the company has seen positive membership growth for the first time in nearly two years, and that its rental and retail transactions are up significantly over last year.

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