Carl Icahn States His Case for Change at Illumina on “Close to the Edge”

In exclusive interview, activist investor discusses his proxy challenge to sequencing giant's board and management

Activist investor Carl C. Icahn has made a lot of news over the past nearly two months by launching a proxy campaign to change Illumina’s board and management, and through that, the company’s direction.

For more than a month, Icahn has offered persistent criticism of Illumina’s current board led by chairman John W. Thompson, and the company’s management led by CEO Francis deSouza.

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Icahn’s arguments include:

  • Illumina’s effort to acquire cancer blood test developer Grail despite opposition from U.S. and European regulators, which he says has drained the company of resources.
  • Also, Illumina’s shrinking stock price—The company has lost some $50 billion in market capitalization—that’s the share price times the number of outstanding shares of a public company.
  • He has also cited the board’s near doubling of CEO Francis deSouza’s total compensation last year, to nearly 27 million dollars, much of that increase based on stock options.
Andrew J. Teno, a portfolio manager at Icahn Capital since October 2020, and one of Carl C. Icahn’s three nominees for Illumina’s board.

Icahn elaborates on these and other arguments at length, and discusses how he plans to move Illumina forward with GEN senior business Editor Alex Philippidis on a special episode of GEN’s “Close to the Edge.” Joining Icahn on the episode is one of his three nominees to Illumina’s board, Andrew J. Teno, a portfolio manager at Icahn Capital since October 2020.

Along with Teno, Icahn has also nominated to Illumina’s board Jesse A. Lynn, general counsel of Icahn Enterprises; and Vincent J. Intrieri, founder and CEO of VDA Capital Management, a private investment fund, and a former Icahn employee from 1998–2016.

Illumina has rejected the three as lacking the qualifications and experience it seeks in board members, and has defended its pursuit of Grail under deSouza.

Icahn is the CEO of Icahn Capital, LP, a wholly owned subsidiary of Icahn Enterprises LP, through which he manages various private investment funds. Icahn Enterprises is a Nasdaq-listed holding company engaged in businesses that include investment, energy, automotive, food packaging, real estate and home fashion.

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