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The Crazy Life of Billionaire Carl Icahn

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The history of the stock market will always sound incomplete without a paragraph or even a chapter about Carl Icahn. He is one of the few successful investors and who have impacted the industry in a big way. According to Forbes, Carl is worth around $20 billion, all of which he has accumulated through investments. He is ranked as the 5th wealthiest hedge fund manager, as well as, the 26th wealthiest fellow on the Forbes 400 list. Like most successful individuals, Carl started with nothing. In one interview, for example, he confessed to selling his only car to get money for food, an act that makes his life story quite interesting.

Early Life

The celebrated investor was born on February 16th, 1936 in a humble family. His mother, Bella Icahn, was a public school teacher while his father worked as a synagogue cantor. Icahn was raised in Brooklyn, New York, a region that was known for harsh environment. Education background He started his education at the Far Rockaway High School in Queens where he graduated with good grades. After high school, Carl recalls his teachers discouraging him from applying to Ivy League Schools insisting that they wouldn’t consider a student from his area. However, Carl knew what he wanted and went ahead to send the applications. His good grades saw him get considerations in almost all the options, but he chose to join Princeton University. Life in the university wasn’t easy for Carl because his father, a synagogue cantor, could only manage to raise $750, tuition money. At the tender age, Carl learned the value of money and hard work as he rarely had money to cater for his meals and accommodation. However, he remained focused, putting his head high and hoped for brighter days.

It’s during this moment that Icahn decided to make ends and took a job as a beach boy. As a beach boy, Carl’s curiosity saw him try his luck in poker playing with wealthy cabana owners in the Rockaways. At first, gambling life took the wrong turn, and this saw the successful investor lose almost all his life savings. The young Carl decided to take a break and read poker books to broaden his skills. Within a short time, he was back on the poker table with a bang. He came back ten times better than all the other poker players. His newly-acquired skills saw him start pocketing not less $2000 every summer, a figure that significantly improved his life in the university. In late 1957, Icahn completed his education and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy. As if that wasn’t enough, the investment guru joined New York University to pursue a medicine course. However, halfway down the line, he lost interest and decided to drop out of the college. Later on, he joined the army reserves where he served for a few years.


In 1961, Carl started his career on Wall Street as a stockbroker working with one of the most respected firms back then, Drefyus & Co. His involvement with the company saw him garner plenty of knowledge and skills needed to navigate through the stock market. Now and then, Carl has confessed that such roles are behind his bold leadership skills and bold moves in the industry. Equipped with skills and knowledge, the talented investor left the company and established his, Icahn & Co. in 1968. The then 32-year old went ahead and secured a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. In the state, he would exploit the price differences of stocks across the market and gain profit on every investment. The move was a significant breakthrough onto his career as he started pocketing no less than $2 million every year. During this period, Carl mastered the art of arbitrating trades, a skill that would later come to his rescue. In the early 80s, Carl took a new path as a hareholder activist,’ a track that has seen him make headlines often. His idea was to represent companies that he felt were undervalued. Using his acquired wealth, he would buy large shares in the companies that had potential but were poorly managed. As one of the largest shareholders, Carl would spearhead the fight for change managerial and leadership positions, all in the name of benefitting the ordinary shareholder.

Clashes with CEOs

Consistently, his bold moves saw him conflict with CEOs and board members who felt like he was on a mission to enrich himself. In his takeover reforms, companies were left with two choices, to either honor his demands or buy him out to the end. His hostile takeovers have seen many companies implement reforms focused on protecting the employees and typical shareholders. Some of those ventures Carl had a confrontation with are; Texaco, American Airlines and Trans World Airlines among many others. Carl also established Icahn Enterprises, formerly known as American Real Estate Partners. Today, he runs a successful hedge fund and is the chairman of American developer and manufacturer Federal-Mogul.

He remains an icon with many people studying his investment tactics and seeking a piece of his vast knowledge in the game. In 1987, his successful portfolio was acknowledged in a movie, Wall Street, through a character Gordon Gecko.

Family Life

Despite his busy career life, Carl is a committed family guy. He has two children with Liba Trejbal, his first wife. In 1990, he remarried, and the two were blessed with a son, Brett. Currently, the successful mogul resides in New York spending his time with the family while making bossy moves behind the scenes. He was and remains an icon worth celebrating.

What do you think? Is Carl a villain or Hero? Value destruction or value creator? Sometimes businesses need someone not afraid to look at the

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