HBO Documentary Films Drops Trailer For ‘Icahn: The Restless Billionaire’

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“Activist or raider, call me what you want, I made this money because the system is so bad, not because I’m a genius,” says Wall Street legend Carl Icahn in a trailer out today from HBO Documentary Films. Icahn: The Restless Billionaire airs Feb. 15.

Icahn, who turns 86 next week, grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens with a schoolteacher mother and father a cantor at the local synagogue. He became a poker whiz to pay his way through Princeton (where he majored in philosophy), dropped out of medical school, joined the army and eventually made his way to Wall Street. There he hounded companies from Lionsgate and the former Time Warner, to Yahoo (when it was independent) and Ebay along with oil companies, airlines and big pharma. In the late 1990s, he took control of Marvel Comics in a rivalry with Ronald Perelman.

His playbook: identifying public companies he thinks are undervalued, buying stock and pressuring CEOs to shake things up. If they refuse, he’s waged massive PR campaigns to woo shareholders, run his own alternate slate of directors at annual meetings, and forced them to if he can.

He calls himself a corporate activist. His mantra: CEOs are overpaid and incompetent, boards are servile and shareholders have no recourse. Yes, companies he’s targeted have gone bankrupt, been bought and shed many jobs. But he argues he’s also made lots of money for investors including “the little guys” (along with amassing tens of billion for himself) over the last half century.

No chief executive wants Icahn — part inspiration for Gordon Gekko, the ruthless corporate raider in Wall Street — to come knocking. His targets have ranged from RJR Nabisco to Texaco, TWA to Lyft, Rubbermaid and Herbalife. Sometimes Icahn’s a more passive investor, at one point owning 10% of Netflix. His high-profile investment in Apple in 2013 provoked a stock rise of $17 billion dollars — an effect known on Wall Street as The Icahn Lift.

In a new kind of project, the WSJ reported this week that’s he has recently teamed with the Humane Society to pressure McDonald’s over where it buys its pork.

The film features Icahn sprinkled with appearances by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Wall Street director Oliver Stone and a raft of business journalists including Andrew Ross Sorkin (New York Times), Cara Lombardo (The Wall Street Journal), Rana Foroohar (Financial Times), Scott Wapner (CNBC) and Bryan Burrough (co-author of the legendary Barbarians at the Gate), along with Icahn’s wife, daughter and son, who stands to succeed him.

Carl Icahn: The Restless Billionaire is an Atlas Media Corp. Production. It’s written, produced and directed by Bruce David Klein; produced by Alexander J. Goldstein; co-produced by Marc Kusnetz and Jim Bruce; executive produced by Jay Firestone. For HBO: senior producer, Tina Nguyen; executive producers, Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller.

It debuts Tues., Feb. 15 (9:00-10:45 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO and will be available to stream on HBO Max.

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