Icahn Takes New Activist Position in Gannett, Backs Split Plan

Carl Icahn, who disclosed a new activist stake in Gannett Co., had planned to mount a campaign to separate the company’s print and broadcasting businesses before Gannett beat him to it. He still wants to talk with management.

Icahn Associates Corp. acquired about 6.6 percent of Gannett’s shares and options during the second quarter, with the belief that “value could be created by splitting the issuer into separate print and broadcast companies,” the fund said in a regulatory filing yesterday.

Gannett announced on Aug. 5 that it planned that very separation before Icahn had any contact with the company, according to the filing.

Icahn Associates now “intend to have discussions with representatives of the issuer’s management and board of directors relating to the planned separation, corporate governance, capitalization and capital allocation,” according to the filing.

``We are happy to discuss our plans with Mr. Icahn, as we do with all of our shareholders,'' Gannett spokesman Jeremy Gaines said in an e-mailed statement.

Separation Plan

Gannett, the owner of USA Today, will spin off its publishing business in a tax-free distribution to shareholders. It’s joining a long line of media companies from Time Warner Inc. to News Corp. that have split publishing from broadcasting to better highlight the growth of the TV business.

Gannett has gained about 33 percent in the past year. The shares rose about 5 percent to $35.85 in late trading as of 5:38 p.m. in New York yesterday.

Icahn, 78, who became an activist investor after gaining fame as a corporate raider in the 1980s, has recently taken large stakes at companies including Apple Inc., Family Dollar Stores Inc., Netflix Inc., EBay Inc. and Dell Inc., agitating management and directors for shareholder-friendly changes.

The New York-based investor is worth more than $23 billion, according to Bloomberg Billionaires, and primarily invests his own fortune, rather than relying on money from outsiders.

Fund managers disclose public holdings quarterly. Once activist investors such as Icahn buy more than 5 percent of a company’s stock they’re required to flag their intention to engage with corporate executives and directors by disclosing their holding in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Icahn also exited the fund’s stake in Forest Laboratories Inc. which was sold to Actavis Plc, and reduced its investment in Netflix Inc., a separate filing shows.

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