The Association of U S West Retirees



Icahn on Chiefs, Morons and Leased Jets
New York Times
Thursday, January 11, 2007

Earlier this week, several blogs and the New York Post picked up a funny and harrowing anecdote about the billionaire financier Carl Icahn that appeared in a profile in Avenue magazine:  Aboard his leased aircraft, the activist investor (or “corporate raider” as he was known in the 1980’s) had just finished instructing Apollo’s Leon Black on the virtues of leasing jets as compared to buying them when he saw smoke coming from the engine.

The pilots started yelling “Mayday! Mayday!” and Mr. Icahn started praying.  Then they landed without further incident.

Another anectode in the article is just as interesting.  In it, Mr. Icahn talks trash about American chief executives.  In defending his aggressive approach (“I think what I do is very good for the economy”), Mr. Icahn declares that “Our country’s companies are generally not well-managed, and it’s a major problem.”

Chief executives, he says, are often “absolutely the wrong guys to be running things.”  In what he calls his “anti-Darwinian metaphor,” he explains:


The C.E.O. is the fraternity brother type who is great to have a drink with.

He’s a survivor and maybe not all that smart, but he works his way up the ladder in


the corporation. And if you’re a survivor, you never have someone beneath you who’s smarter than you. So you eventually work your way to C.E.O. You have someone a little dumber than you underneath, and eventually we’ll have morons running everything … which we’re getting closer to.

(Some background on Mr. Icahn and the word moron:  While he was feuding with the management of Time Warner in 2005, Mr. Icahn appeared to call the media group’s chief executive, Richard Parsons, a moron, though he later said that he was really referring to C.E.O.’s in general.)

In the next bit of the Avenue article, he backpedals slightly. “There are a lot of exceptions,” he says.  “But many of the guys running companies are not accountable.  And if you’re not accountable, you don’t have to work that hard.”  Want to know more about Mr. Icahn’s thoughts on corporate accountability? Stay tuned: He tells Avenue he “may write a book on it.”

Comments ...

1.  January 11, 2007

i work for GE, most feel its a well oiled machine!  If you could only see what happeneds daily on a plant to plant basis you would be astounded.  If, it was well ran at a local level this company would have the potential to outperform any!  The hourly employees are some of the most talented I’ve ever seen!  however, I must agree completely with his comments about upper management (at the plant level )about 90% (corporate level isn’t to bad actually!) MORONS.  10% are again very gifted!  this 10% of management and the hourly employees is what carries GE.  The upper management at plant level is a good old boys club where accountablity is almost non-exsistant!  Most only have to play golf,drink coffee, and tell a good story to maintain their postions!  Sounds cruel (this is a change of heart for me too!) but jack welch (a great leader!) was absolutely correct in his policy of terminating the bottom 10% of underperforming management!  Why?  after 10yrs. you end up with 90% underperforming!  Because the 10% who carry the rest of management grow tired and look elsewhere for the team that once was!
— Posted by justin

2.  January 11, 2007

Not to worry… give the Chinese a few years… they will either force US global companies to clean up their management, or they’ll be buying the companies at rock bottom prices.  Market forces do eventually work, though we in the US appear to be descending to the bottom in an ethical and fudicary (as well as a cents) sense.  Of course, those pulling the strings on Wall Street and in D.C. are doing just fine as they sell our companies and society down the river while pulling down multi-million dollar bonuses and payoffs. It’s being to sound alot like China…..
— Posted by PEN

3.  January 11, 2007

Wall st. is booming; just look at Manhattan.  Why?  Because they are leading the charge to sell America and push M&As.  Our almost $1T annual balance of payments guarantees that we must sell our businesses, jobs, and now even our national highways to foreign interests as those oversea dollars “must” be recycled and we don’t have enough attractive Ameican goods or services to do this.  We are quickly heading to the first “international trade zone” nation in history where anyone can own, trade, or work here.  Our execs know this and are maximizing their “sell out” bonuses for themselves as the “sell off” accelerates.  We are quickly coming to the day when we will not even own the “dirt” under our feet…………….
— Posted by sam