Trump and the Icahn Playbook

Donald Trump has commonly invoked the name Carl Icahn among those he admires in the business world. Let’s take a look at the Icahn playbook which may give us an insight into the Trump playbook if he should be elected POTUS.

Icahn has made himself a vast financial fortune in a variety of ways, but his most popular one currently is this:

He looks for a valuable corporation that has fallen on torpid times. A once thriving entity is now beset by lethargy, poor productivity, poor shareholder value, lack of innovation and lack of leadership. He buys a substantial position in the company’s stock and via that position get himself and/or his surrogate(s) on the Board. Once in that role they advocate for changes that they feel would improve shareholder value, which coincidentally now includes themselves.

Commonly he asks for management changes either in policy or persons or both. The corporation that Icahn commonly targets is one that once had importance, productivity, innovation and brand. In most cases, it has now become a personal vehicle for the status and aggrandizement of management itself. Large salaries, generous stock options, sinecures, self-serving committees, golden parachutes, a vast comfort zone for management. Corporations in practice are owned by the shareholders. Management is chosen to serve the best interests of the shareholders. As corporations age, most of them forget that original allegiance and purpose. Enter Mr. Icahn.

I would suggest that this is exactly the problem with Washington today. It is a management team that was originally created to guide the government apparatus for the good purposes and outcomes for its shareholders, namely us! We the citizens are the shareholders of America, and those elected to serve are there at our convenience and concurrence. .

The voters of the center and right are looking for someone to enact a hostile takeover of the now vested interests of those we sent to serve, and who no longer do. Suddenly, and to the surprise of the Republican party, the establishment is being threatened with either performing in the best interests of the shareholders or get out. Their response is one of panic, shock and fear. They are rightly in fear. Their hold on their fiefdom is in jeopardy. It never was theirs, but they have forgotten that. That they serve, not own has been forgotten.

Trump has no dog in that fight. Neither he nor Icahn care a hoot about entrenched management. Start to innovate. Start to pare waste from the budget. Start to promote the creative and the smart, the best and the brightest even if they are first year senators or reps. Start to balance your budget. Start to create new jobs. Seek out synergies. Cooperate for the good of the shareholders. Begin to do all these things or get out.

This is all the Trump/Icahn playbook asks. They don’t pretend to have every answer for every problem, but their goal is to get management to find those people or Trump/Icahn will find them themselves. The incumbent management is on notice. Perform or get out of the way. That is the Trump threat! That is what is creating all the panic and fear. My God, someone is actually challenging them to do their job. Once that is the mission, the timid and thwarted, the bright but intimidated will step out of the shadows. Too long have freshman senators and reps been told that if you want to prosper in Washington, get committee appointments and chairmanships, learn to play ball with the old guard, the repeating incumbents. Fresh ideas are not welcome. Showing allegiances are.

This freshening is the very liberty that a Trump/Icahn approach will unloose. This is the very anathema to entrenched management. This is all we ask as shareholders in America. Serve our needs, not yours. Serve your country. not your office. Get things done, or we’ll find someone else who can get things done. Such a simple reminder of how the Republic should work is all that is being demanded by the supporters of DJT. So far, management, Democratic and Republican, has made a mess out of things, here and in the world. On careful scrutiny there is absolutely no component, division or department of government that has acted in the best interests of the country as a whole. They have all served their own or their favorite’s personal interests. All politics in Washington has become local politics. They serve the Hill, not America. They pretend to serve America; they say they serve the American people, but they don’t. They serve their own best interests. (And that is often the best interests of all the corporate PACs as well). They have created a simulacrum of government, not a real and functioning government.

The real has been forgotten. The shareholders have been forgotten. It is a shareholder rebellion; the shareholders are demanding the kind of change that they see only corporate raiders and vigilantes being able to impose. The entrenched management in Washington is not going to give up their parvenus and sinecures easily. It took the guillotine in France. Fortunately here, it will be the bloodless vote that will seek to rid us of the sullen and the self-satisfied.

His critics say Trump doesn’t know anything about government. Maybe at this juncture that is a plus. He does know business. He does know corporate governess. He does know how to assemble management, promote the able, disenfranchise the merely hangers-on. Either a player in a role gets that role done, or someone else gets the chair. Private industry standards imposed on public service scares the bejesus out of the establishment. That’s the panic in Washington. That’s the panic the public wants. America no longer wants the Bushes or the Clintons. Out with old that has ceased functioning, and in the with the new! Let the chips fall where they may. Once we’ve cleared the old wood, then send out the call to all, the new and talented. Come to Washington. Come and help us make things work. Come and help us make things right. Demand and help us serve the shareholders of America. And these shareholder benefits must accrue to all Americans, rich, poor, black, white, Chicano. Every American should prosper from a properly serving management team in Washington. That’s all we ask.

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2 thoughts on “Trump and the Icahn Playbook

  1. Here, here. Nothing like a shake up…just hope Trump can handle the other parts of the job. Looks like he is unstoppable to be the GOP candidate. Although the many republicans speaking out against may drive them aways from voting at all; or for a candidate that would never have a chance. Interesting times indeed. It is refreshing to see so many people impassioned to embrace this real change you speak of. How ironic that was Obama’s slogan years ago; yet not much was lived up to. Although in politics, not everyone can be ousted the way it is in private business. I think that would be his challenge if he were to become POTUS.

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    1. Yes…you’re right….DJT is being “sent to DC” to shake things up….but the question is….can he do it…or will the system stymie him. You are right, he can’t oust some people in government, but he may be able to work around them….BUT….he’s got to get there first. In the meantime, he’s keeping things interesting….thanks for being a regular reader.

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