Occidental Petroleum allowed itself to be played by the Oracle of Omaha so top brass could hold onto their jobs, billionaire investor Carl Icahn alleged Monday.
Icahn, who has railed against the oil company’s “risky” merger plans, says Occidental Chief Executive Vicki Hollub was out of her league in negotiating with Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett to secure financing for Anadarko Petroleum.
Occidental announced its plans to buy Anadarko for $38 billion in May after beating out rival bidder Chevron. The deal is expected to close before the end of the year.
“In my opinion, Buffett figuratively took her to the cleaners,” Icahn wrote in a letter to shareholders Monday, referring to the $10 billion in financing Buffett provided Occidental to buy Andarko.
The financing terms give Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway an 8 percent return on preferred shares, and 80 million warrants to buy Occidental stock, which is worth $1.2 billion.
“The Buffett deal was like taking candy from a baby and amazingly she even thanked him publicly for it!” Icahn, 83, said. It was almost Buffett’s “fiduciary duty” to Berkshire to accept the favorable terms, he said.
Icahn, who owns a 4.4 percent stake in Occidental, contends that the Houston company pursued the acquisition to prevent itself from becoming a takeover target — as well as to protect the jobs of Hollub and Occidental Chairman Eugene Batchelder. The fiery activist wants to name four members to Occidental’s board to prevent the company from pursuing another “value-debilitating transaction.”
Occidental defended itself Monday, including by urging shareholders to reject Icahn’s attempts to force a director election 10 weeks after the company’s annual meeting.
In a letter to shareholders, Hollub and Batchelder expressed misgivings over Icahn’s nominees, who include Nicholas Graziano, portfolio manager at Icahn Capital; Andrew Langham, general counsel of Icahn Enterprises; Alan LeFevre, a board member for Herbalife, where Icahn holds a 23 percent stake, and former Shell Oil president John Hofmeister.
Icahn’s nominees do not “possess skills, experience or expertise that are additive or superior to our existing directors,” Hollub and Batchelder said.
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