Icahn threatens to replace Lions Gate board

BILLIONAIRE investor Carl Icahn stepped up his effort to take control of the movie studio Lions Gate Entertainment yesterday, saying he will put up his own list of candidates to replace the company's board.

Icahn, who has a stake of about 19 per cent in Lions Gate, has been tussling with management since last year.

In a lengthy open letter to the company's board, Icahn criticised Lions Gate's directors for allowing its stock price to sink and for trying to block his efforts to buy up the company's shares. He said he hopes a new board will move quickly to replace management.

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"Since the board is clearly unwilling to tell the emperor he wears no clothes, it is left to the shareholders to take action," Icahn said in his letter.

Messages left with a Lions Gate spokesman were not immediately returned.

Trying to replace the board is a familiar tactic for Icahn.

He tried to oust Yahoo's board in 2008 after the company turned down Microsoft's $47.5 billion (32.4bn) takeover offer. Yahoo appeased Icahn by giving him a board seat rather than kicking out the rest of the directors. Icahn left Yahoo's board last year, happy with the company's new chief executive, Carol Bartz, and its decision to hire Microsoft to provide search results.

He is looking to take over Lions Gate. Based in Vancouver, it has most of its operations in Santa Monica, California. It backed the Oscar-winning movie Precious. It also owns the TV Guide network and produces television shows, including Weeds and Mad Men.

Icahn is offering the studio's stockholders $7 per share for the stake that he does not already own, up from a previous offer of $6. The bid expires on Wednesday and so far shareholders representing about 3.7 per cent of the outstanding stock have accepted.

Icahn has said he will not raise the offer.

The shares have traded between $4.81 and $7.37 over the past year.

This week, Lions Gate shareholder Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks baseball team, said he plans to tender his 6.4 million shares to Icahn. .

In his letter, Icahn criticised Lions Gate for writing terms into its debt contracts that would "frighten" investors into opposing his bid.

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