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Icahn eyes Time Warner break-up
Report: Financier wants to see company split into cable, Internet, print and studio/network units.
December 2, 2005: 8:32 AM EST
Carl Icahn will reportedly push Time Warner to split into four separate units.
Carl Icahn will reportedly push Time Warner to split into four separate units.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Renowned investor Carl Icahn and his allies plan to push for Time Warner to be split into four separate companies, according to a published report.

The Financial Times reported Friday that Icahn and other dissident shareholders of the world's largest media conglomerate will call for the company to be split into cable, Internet, publishing and a fourth unit that will include its movie studios and television networks.

CNNMoney.com is a unit of Time Warner (Research).

The FT said the plans were disclosed by people familiar with the discussions. Icahn and his allies, who own almost 3 percent of the outstanding Time Warner shares, earlier this week announced they had hired investment bank Lazard to help the group analyze various strategic alternatives and push to win a majority of Time Warner board seats through a proxy fight.

The plan to split the company into four separate units, far more wide ranging than the measures that Icahn has publicly announced so far, will form the basis of the proxy fight, according to the FT report. Icahn and Lazard chief Bruce Wasserstein are approaching media industry executives to get them to join a slate of eight board directors in next year's proxy vote, according to the report.

"The kind of people we are looking for are those that believe Time Warner's business would work better as separate entities," a person involved in the discussions told the newspaper.

Icahn is on record pushing for Time Warner to spin off all of its Time Warner Cable unit, the nation's No. 2 cable operator. The company plans to sell a minority stake in its cable unit through an initial public offering of a new class of stock.

Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons has also confirmed that the company is in talks with other companies on a possible joint venture or investments in its Internet unit, America Online. Icahn has told analysts earlier this week that he would hold the Time Warner board "personally responsible" if they forge a deal to sell all or part of AOL too cheaply.

Neither Icahn nor officials from Lazard were available for comment, the FT reported. But it said that Icahn has previously said that Time Warner is in need of "radical restructuring" and that he has a high regard for its individual businesses but sees the "top layer" as wasteful.

Time Warner shares closed Thursday at $18.16. Shares have traded in the $15 to $20 range over the last two years.

There have been a rash of media conglomerates announcing plans to split into separate units this year, most notably Viacom (Research), which plans to split into two companies later this year. One is to be called CBS and will include its broadcast network and some of its other slower-growth units. The other will keep the Viacom name and include its faster-growing cable networks such as MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central.

The FT reports that Lazard advises Sumner Redstone, who owns a controlling stake in Viacom.

For a closer look at media and technology break-up plans, click here.  Top of page

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