By Lee Munson
Carl Icahn is trying to portray himself as a shareholder activist. His Twitter profile page makes him look like a cross between a wise, old grandpa ready to help Main Street investors and "The Most Interesting Man in the World" from those Dos Equis ads.
But he's still a pirate and corporate raider. Just look at his recent attacks on eBay (EBAY).
Icahn wants the online auction company to spin off its PayPal unit. And he's said some nasty things about eBay's CEO and board members to help make his case.
That sounds just like what corporate raiders used to do in the 1980s. They would buy up shares in a company, made announcements about the wrongs of that company's executives, and used the media to promote their plan to increase the value of their holdings.
Is that wrong? No. But suggesting that an open letter to management is a public service announcement is wrong. Icahn is portraying himself as an activist to convince the public that his way is truly in the best interests for all parties.
However, there are many different groups involved and not all of them are in harmony. Stockholders, management, employees, and customers are not always in alignment. They don't have to be for capitalism to work.
Shareholders can be investors interested in long-term growth and speculators looking for a short-term profit. We should not assume one loud mercenary speaks for all shareholders.
Fans of Icahn will point out that he tells it like it is. Not so. He tells you what he wants so he can make a profit. How is he really benefiting average investors?
Someone recently suggested that the public wouldn't know things like Apple (AAPL) is sitting on a ton of cash if it weren't for people like Icahn. Really? Every analyst on Wall Street can see the cash. In fact, anybody that takes the time to look at public documents can see it.
In celebrating Icahn, we clearly lack any sense of history. Come on people. Carl Icahn was reportedly the inspiration for Gordon Gekko!
Of course, Icahn is free to speak, present his ideas, and allow the animal spirits of the market do what it will. Just don't think he is any different now than when I was a kid in the 1980s.
I admire the skill of Carl Icahn. But it's my job to protect clients from making bets based on what speculators are doing. It would be a mistake to invest their retirement portfolio alongside Icahn and other pirates on the high seas of Wall Street.
Lee Munson is the founder and CIO of Portfolio Wealth Advisors. He does not own eBay. He can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.portfoliollc.com. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely his.
Just days after nearly hitting a new all-time high, shares of Amazon (AMZN) are faltering ahead of its earnings report, due after the bell Tuesday.
That begs the question: What do investors know that the rest of us don't? Probably not much, but the stock decline may be signaling some jitters.
Shares were down more than 2% Tuesday.
It's not too big a stretch for investors to be a little on edge, MORECatherine Tymkiw - Jan 29, 2013 11:26 AM ET
Auction site eBay continues to impress investors, thanks in large part to the ongoing success of PayPal.
Late Wednesday, eBay reported better-than-expected earnings and revenue for its latest quarter. And while the company issued slightly weaker guidance for the current quarter, its full-year outlook was rosier.
Shares of eBay (EBAY) rallied nearly 4% to a new 52-week high Thursday. The stock has been on a tear, soaring 41% over the past MORECatherine Tymkiw - Jan 17, 2013 12:22 PM ET
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Paul R. La Monica. Other than Time Warner, the parent of CNNMoney, Abbott Laboratories and AbbVie, La Monica does not own positions in any individual stocks.
Call them the dot-com survivors.
AOL (AOL), Amazon.com (AMZN), eBay (EBAY), Priceline (PCLN) and Yahoo (YHOO) were all major players at the height of Internet insanity in the late 1990s. They are all still around today MOREPaul R. La Monica - Jan 3, 2013 12:46 PM ET
Cyber Monday has been good to eBay.
Shares of the auction site hit a 52-week high Thursday, just days after logging strong gains on one of the most important online shopping days of the year for retailers.
It's not just online shopping that's attracting consumer interest. All in all, it looks like consumers are increasingly getting more comfortable with paying for their purchases on mobile devices.
eBay (EBAY) also got a boost MORECatherine Tymkiw - Nov 29, 2012 11:49 AM ET
More people are hitting the eBay auction block to buy and sell their wares, and they're using PayPal to complete those online transactions.
EBay (EBAY) reported third-quarter earnings per share that beat Wall Street estimates by a penny and said they have 14% more active users over last year.
Investors said buy, buy, buy to the stock Thursday, sending its shares up more than 4%. Several Wall Street analysts did too.
StockTwits MOREMaureen Farrell - Oct 18, 2012 3:00 PM ET
Mobile payments seems to have replaced social as the tech phenomenon that everybody is talking about. Privately held Square made waves with its groundbreaking deal a few weeks ago with coffee king Starbucks (SBUX). Wal-Mart (WMT), Target (TGT) and several other prominent retailers have teamed up to create the Merchant Customer Exchange. And Google (GOOG) has big financial and wireless firms such as Citigroup (C), MasterCard (MA) and Sprint (S) MOREPaul R. La Monica - Aug 23, 2012 10:27 AM ET
Shares of eBay rallied nearly 10% Wednesday, hitting their highest level since January 2006, after the company topped earnings and sales expectations for the second quarter.
eBay (EBAY) CEO John Donahoe credited the solid performance to the successful turnaround of the company's e-commerce business, called eBay Marketplaces.
Revenue for e-commerce business jumped 9% from a year earlier to a record high of $1.8 billion.
eBay's PayPal unit also continued to post strong results, MOREHibah Yousuf - Jul 19, 2012 11:50 AM ET
#StupidStock Move of the Day! $EBAY is down more than 6% on no news & big volume. Do people really think Europe is hurting PayPal that much?— Paul R. La Monica (@LaMonicaBuzz) May 30, 2012
Yes, a slowdown in Europe won't be great news for eBay (EBAY). But don't we already know that eBay, like nearly every consumer-centric company, will face economic headwinds? Isn't that already priced into the stock, which MOREPaul R. La Monica - May 30, 2012 2:11 PM ET
Tiffany (TIF) is showing that diamonds are not an investor's best friend. And eBay's (EBAY) deal to get PayPal to be used on VeriFone Systems (PAY) cash registers gets little love from traders.
etfhack: @Retail_Guru $TIF inventories up 27%? how can this not bode horribly for margins in back 1/2 of yr?
firstadopter: $TIF PR: "Americas region underperformed, continuing a soft trend that began in the last quarter of 2011" Wow they MOREPaul R. La Monica - May 24, 2012 12:51 PM ET
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