Carl Icahn on the thing about Corporate America

We were reading TRB’s post about Icahn’s comments on Ackman and the whole $HLF ordeal, and we thought of an old video Icahn did at Yale University with Robert Shiller. The video is a gem, and timeless in many respects. Icahn discusses his view of corporate America, Wall Street, and what students should know before entering the industry. The talk is both entertaining  and informative. Here is a quote to show a little bit of what the video holds:

“It is Anti-Darwinian in America’s corporations. And that means a guy goes to college, and this is the guy who becomes CEO, and he is in college and he is the kind of guy who was the president of the Fraternity. These are the guys I remember who are always at the Fraternity. He is always there even when you have a bad day. Your girlfriend left you, you had a bad test score, or whatever. He’s always there. He buys you a drink, sit around with him, he commiserates with you. Play a little pool. You like the guy, you can’t help but like the guy. You used to wonder, when the did he do any work? But, he was always there for you. He never made many waves; he never said anything too obtrusive. But, he was a good guy.

That same guy goes out into corporate America and politically he is astute. He knows how to get along with people and he never really rocks the boat. He never comes up with any great idea; he’s not a threat to his superior and, as a result, he moves up the ladder because, really, in corporate America, there’s really very little accountability… So, he moves along the ladder and he gets slowly up to the top. Now he has two attributes: he’s politically astute and he’s a survivor–he’s not really a threat and he gets to the top.

These are the attributes of today’s CEOs for the most part, with exceptions. He doesn’t ruffle feathers; he doesn’t get the board upset; and as he moves up the ladder, he finally gets to be number two to the CEO. Now, the CEO has the same attributes–where he doesn’t want to be threatened and he’s a survivor. The CEO will never let anybody be number two who’s smarter than he is. So, by definition, the assistant to the CEO is a little dumber than the CEO. [And the cycle continues.]”

The information in this blog post represents my own opinions and does not contain a recommendation for any particular security or investment. I or my affiliates may hold positions or other interests in securities mentioned in the Blog, please see my Disclaimer page for my full disclaimer.

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