If Carl Icahn is serious about waging a proxy fight to install his own slate of directors at Lionsgate Entertainment, he has yet to reach out to some of his old entertainment friends to fill out the team.
Frank Biondi, Strauss Zelnick and Mark Cuban told Daily Variety that the activist shareholder has not contacted them to ask whether they would be interested in joining an alternative slate. Those candidates would be put to a vote of Lionsgate investors during a yet-to-be-scheduled annual meeting. Lionsgate and Icahn had agreed that the meeting could not be set until at least 45 days after the July 19 expiration of a truce between the two sides.
Given their past relationships with Icahn and their experience in movies and television, all three top entertainment execs would seem to be go-to candidates for him. Icahn did not return phone calls seeking comment on Tuesday.
That these executives have not been contacted might suggest that Icahn believes he can reach some other resolution with Lionsgate before an annual meeting, perhaps winning some negotiated board seats, including one for his son, Brett.
Biondi, the former CEO of Viacom and head of Universal Pictures, was appointed to the Yahoo! board as part of a negotiated settlement in 2008 with Icahn after he dropped a proxy fight there. Biondi was Icahn’s pick to be the CEO of Time Warner in 2006 when he waged a battle against the media conglom, largely to break it apart. Icahn also asked Biondi to be part of a director slate during his fight with Motorola in 2008.
“I am pretty full up on boards right now. Maybe that’s why he hasn’t reached out,” Biondi said on Tuesday. Biondi also serves as senior managing director of WaterView Advisors.
Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks who co-owns Magnolia Pictures, was selected to be a Yahoo! board nominee by Icahn before he dropped his proxy fight. What’s more, in June, Cuban tendered his Lionsgate shares, representing a 5% stake, to Icahn, boosting Icahn’s position to 28% at the time. Cuban through an email acknowledged that Icahn has not asked him to be part of an alternative slate at Lionsgate.
Zelnick, the former CEO of BMG Entertainment and President of 20th Century Fox, joined the board of Blockbuster Entertainment in 2005 as an Icahn nominee. Zelnick, who runs his own investment firm Zelnick Media, said he had not been contacted by Icahn. Another potential candidate, Ed Bleier, a former top executive at Warner Bros. whom Icahn picked to serve on the Blockbuster board, was on vacation this week and could not be reached.
On Monday, the unrelenting Icahn fired back at Lionsgate by filing a lawsuit against the company and its No. 2 shareholder after a $100 million debt-to-equity swap last week diluted Icahn’s stake to 33.5% from 37.3%. Icahn is seeking damages and to overturn a transaction that enabled MHR Fund Management, operated by Icahn’s former colleague Mark Rachesky, to obtain new shares and boost his Lionsgate stake to 29%. Lionsgate has yet to respond to the lawsuit.