Corporate retreat?

Icahn calls a truce but may win in long run

In a way, Carl Icahn gets what he wanted.

Last summer, the corporate raider targeted Time Warner, rattling his saber with demands that the company reinvent itself.

But on Feb. 16, his 70th birthday, he gave TW a gift: He indicated he’s backing down on his grand attempt to grab control of the world’s biggest media conglom.

It’s not the shiny new toy Icahn might have wanted, but he made his presence felt.

Certainly, Time Warner shouldn’t rush to post this one in the victory column.

With its stock stuck at $18, TW still faces questions of how to revitalize its vision and value while other media congloms are sharpening their images.

Viacom split in half. Disney’s laser-focused on content and animation. Sony is laying off 10,000 people. News Corp.’s doing whatever Rupert Murdoch says, which is good enough for many.

Icahn’s plan to chop Time Warner into four pieces may have been too extreme for investors. And they still like TW chairman-CEO Richard Parsons.

But they’ve also had it up to here with the flatlined stock.

So Icahn, one of the world’s richest men, gets credit for forcing Time Warner to reassess itself.

He harped about corporate overhead and the company’s lack of a clearly defined strategy. He forced it to listen, and to go out and talk with big shareholders about what they’d like to see and when and how.

It’s why some felt his presence was valuable, even if they didn’t buy into his grand plan.

Without him mouthing off, maybe others will.

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