Icahn’s Beef with Navistar

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Navistar is in the news. Again. Still.

This time one of its key investors — Carl Icahn, who controls 15 percent of the company — is enraged that the company has made all manner of major decisions lately without consulting shareholders. The big technology switch and the hiring of new CEO Lewis Campbell to replace Dan Ustian are among his major beefs, and in a letter to Navistar board members he had particularly nasty things to say about Campbell’s track record. He said that the board has been “asleep at the switch” for the last three years.

“At Navistar, where four shareholders hold almost 60 percent of the stock, it would be a simple matter for this board to bring substantial holders together to discuss and reach a consensus regarding important decisions concerning the company that WE own,” Icahn wrote [his caps]. “It is therefore outrageous that you have not reached out to obtain our opinion (and I assume you have not obtained the opinions of the other large holders) on issues such as choosing a new management team to lead this company.”

Icahn urges that “at least four directors” designated by shareholders be added to the board immediately.

The company’s response was a terse, two-paragraph statement that ended this way:

“Navistar maintains an ongoing dialogue with its shareholders, and appreciates their input and views… Rest assured, the Board and management have a clear path forward and are focused on executing on their plan and delivering value to shareholders.”

No surprise is yesterday’s news that the company will soon kill its Workhorse division, before year’s end.

Who knows what the next few weeks will offer, but as I said last time out, we’re looking more and more like seeing a clean slate at Navistar in all sorts of ways. Speculation is rampant, of course, about the future of International engines, and nothing would surprise me at this point. I’m guessing that some Navistar decisions will have shock value. I’m also guessing that the company will survive all of this and get back to just making good trucks — they’ve never been the problem — before long at all.

One particular name is being bandied about as the guy to lead them out of today’s hole, a person I know pretty well. I don’t think he’d take the job, but whoever does must be radically pragmatic. Like he is.

We’ll see.

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Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to Trucknews.com.

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