The Fascinating Story Of How Carl Icahn Went From Queens Boy To Corporate King

Carl Icahn Poker

Pick a company, any company.

The odds are that Carl Celian Icahn once owned a stake in it.

He’s been doing so for years, and shows no sign of letting up: Bloomberg reported this week the 76-year-old was about to purchase a stake in a Brazilian mining company from Phil Falcone.

We wanted to see how Icahn made his billions.

Like most truly successful Americans, Icahn came from humble origins.

Icahn was born in 1936. His father was a synagogue cantor (though apparently an atheist); his mother a school teacher. He attended Far Rockaway High School in Queens.

Source: Icahn report

He worked his way into Princeton, where he majored in Philosophy.

He graduated in 1957.

Source: Icahn report

After brief stints at med school and the army, Icahn joined legendary mutual fund manager Dreyfus & Co.

Dreyfus merged with Mellon in 1994.

Source: Icahn report

By 1968, Icahn was able to buy a seat on the NYSE and start Icahn & Co. Inc., a brokerage firm.

He was 32.

Source: Icahn report

The big break came in 1978, when a bet on Tappan, a stove maker, grossed $3 million for the firm.

That's nearly $9,000,000 in 2005 dollars.

Source: New York Times

He'd take a controlling stake in a firm and force extreme changes in the company's structure (like spinning off different units). He forced some firms to pay him 'greenmail' money to keep him away.

Source: Investopedia

His highpoint in the '80s was his takeover of TWA.

Having purchased the company in 1985, he took it private three years later in a $650 million share-buyback plan.

Source: Investopedia

However, the move also saddled the airline with hundreds of millions in debt.

In 1992 it declared bankruptcy, and Icahn left the firm.

Source: Investopedia

But his ubiquity enabled him to quickly bounce back.

He spent most of the 90s seeking to break up RJR Nabisco. The gambit ultimately failed but Icahn realised $100 million in profits from his involvement in the firm.

Source: New York Times

In the late '90s, Icahn suffered a rare defeat after failing to takeover Marvel Entertainment.

The fun part about Icahn is that at any given moment, he's plotting some crazy scheme.

Google 'Icahn' and any year, and you get something juicy.

  • 2000: 'Icahn wins control of Atlantic City casino' (Icahn sold the property in 2006 for $250 million; he'd paid just $65 million)
  • 2002: 'Icahn's ImClone interest' (bought by Eli Lilly in 2008)
  • 2004: 'Icahn targets Mylan' (Icahn forces the drug maker to drop a major acquisition effort)

Icahn rechartered his holdings to Icahn Enterprises in 2007.

The company consists of:

  • Federal Mogul (automotive)
  • Tropicana (entertainment/casinos)
  • ARI (rail car)
  • Viskase (food packaging)
  • PSC Metals (recycling)
  • Bayswater (real estate)
  • WPI (interior decorating)

Source: Icahn Enterprises

After six decades on Wall Street, the number of firms in which Icahn has owned a stake or served on the board is staggering.

Besides those already mentioned, these firms include...


Source: Icahn Report

Phillips Petroleum (now Conoco Phillips)


Western Union

Source: Icahn Report


Source: Icahn Report


Source: Icahn Report


Source: Icahn Report

Icahn has left his stamp on the city that he loves through his charitable work.

Carl Icahn Stadium on Randall's Island is one of those stamps. Here's what they do:

Randall's Island Sports Foundation, Inc. (RISF) is a nonprofit organisation that, in conjunction with City leadership, works to realise the island's unique potential by developing sports and recreational facilities, restoring its vast natural environment, reclaiming and maintaining parkland, and sponsoring programs for the children of New York City.

And if you're heading that way from Manhattan, you'll notice Carl Icahn's name on a stretch of the city's main east side highway, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive.

Source: Icahn Stadium

He also founded his own charter schools in the Bronx.

That philanthropy — and a legendary wit — explain why ultimately, people usually end up falling for the kid from Queens. Check out his stand up below.

Oh by the way.

He's now worth $14 billion.

Source: Forbes

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