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Carl Icahn Reveals Stake in Crock-Pot Maker Newell Brands

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Carl Icahn

Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

Activist investor Carl Icahn has taken a “large position” in Newell Brands Inc., saying he believes the Crock-Pot maker is undervalued.

Icahn’s disclosing his stake follows a push by Starboard Value, the activist fund run by Jeff Smith, for changes at Newell. Icahn said Thursday in a CNBC interview that he’s deciding whether to back a proxy slate submitted by Starboard.

Icahn, without disclosing the specific size of his holdings, said he considered putting up his own slate of director candidates. The billionaire decided against it because he didn’t want to be “the third horse in a three-horse race.”

“I think it’s going to be a tight race and I’m going to have to decide what I’m going to do,” he said.

Starboard launched its fight to replace the entire Newell board last month. The New York-based hedge fund has also has urged the company to halt plans to sell some of its brands until shareholders have a chance to vote on its slate of 10 directors.

“While we do not comment on individual conversations with shareholders, we do appreciate Mr. Icahn’s ownership and views,” Newell said in a statement. “Newell Brands continues to take decisive action and is focused on executing its accelerated transformation plan to improve operational performance.”

Planned Retreat

Newell, based in Hoboken, New Jersey, said in January that it planned to retreat from a debt-fueled acquisition spree and sell brands that account for about half of its customer base. Some of the properties, including Rubbermaid, were considered key to the company’s future just a few years ago.

Starboard’s Smith argues the company’s turnaround plans were a “hastily designed action to deflect blame from the recent poor performance.”

Starboard has teamed up with with former executives of Jarden Corp., which was bought by Newell two years ago, in its efforts, including ex-Jarden chairman and co-founder Martin Franklin.

In response, Newell has appointed new directors to its board and stepped up its defense of a turnaround plan. Newell has said the initiatives to overhaul its operations will make it “simpler, faster and stronger.”

(Updates with Newell Brands comment in sixth paragraph.)
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