Founder, Icahn Enterprises
Born: Feb. 16, 1936, New York City
Education: Bachelor's in philosophy, Princeton University
Carl Icahn unlocks shareholder value, and neither a company's size nor reputation nor industry deters him from seeking it—actively. He will do it as an outside agitator, a minority investor or an owner-operator. He can deftly pick the lock as a creditor owning a company's distressed debt or, his critics say, kick the door down as an equity holder with a proxy fight, tender offer or controlling share. Whatever his methods, they have built him a fortune Bloomberg estimates at $21.7 billion.
Boards of directors and executive managers fear news that he has become a shareholder: It portends some kind of shake-up, and likely a proxy fight. "Generally, but not always, the net result has been very positive for the company and the shareholders," Icahn has written. "For too long and for a variety of reasons, shareholders have been complicit in allowing management excesses and incompetence by not taking a stand."