Hertz stock skids 12 percent after activist investor Carl Icahn discloses a cut in his stake

Key Points
  • Carl Icahn reports owning 24.3 million Hertz shares, representing 28.9 percent of outstanding equity. That's down from 35 percent.
  • Icahn has overseen the introduction of two Hertz chief executive officers since his initial investment and has successfully won board seats.
Carl Icahn speaking at Delivering Alpha in New York on Sept. 13, 2016.
David A. Grogan | CNBC

Hertz Global Holdings stock plummeted Tuesday after longtime activist investor Carl Icahn disclosed he has trimmed his stake, selling off roughly five million shares.

In a regulatory filing late Monday, Icahn reported ownership of 24.3 million shares of the rental car company, that represents 28.9 percent of its outstanding equity. That's down from a previously reported stake of 29.3 million shares, or about 35 percent of Hertz.

Hertz shares tumbled 12 percent Tuesday morning following news of Icahn's move. Before today, Hertz stock was up more than 46 percent this year alone. That follows a 38 percent loss in 2018.

Hertz is just one of many investments for Icahn, whom over the years has made a fortune by buying into companies and advocating for change in management, operations or both. His original investment in Hertz in 2014 came amid a string of accounting errors that required the company to restate its financial results for a number of years.

Overall, the investment has proved a rare miss for Icahn.

Though Icahn initially thought the stock was undervalued when he made his 2014 investment, its price is down almost 90 percent in the years since. Icahn's 24.3 million shares in the rental-car company are now worth about $485 million, according to CNBC calculations. That's down from a high of about $1.3 billion at the end of 2014, when he held less than half as many shares. That reflects a loss of about $814 million.

The billionaire investor stepped in at the time to help reshape the management team and has long been Hertz's largest shareholder. Icahn has overseen the introduction of two Hertz chief executive officers since his initial investment and has successfully won board seats at the company while building his position.

Hertz said in 2016 that then-CEO John Tague would retire a little more than two years after he landed the role with support from Icahn and be replaced by Kathryn Marinello. She lauded the company's fourth-quarter earnings results last week, when Hertz reported a narrow-than-expected loss per share and better-than-anticipates sales.

"We finished 2018 strong, delivering improvements in rental price, volume, utilization and fleet costs for the full year as a result of targeted strategies, disciplined execution and well-placed investments," Marinello said in last week's press release. "We have tremendous momentum as we move into 2019 and will focus on continued revenue growth as well as productivity to drive margin expansion."