Icahn on ‘Moron’ CEOs

Carl Icahn is best known for hostility, not humor. But last week, he took some time off from attacking Time Warner, his latest target, to do some standup in New York.

He joined other financial chiefs at Carolines on Broadway for the club’s Funny Business night (this one was part of the New York Comedy Festival).

Icahn didn’t single out Time Warner in his half-hour of recollections about buying stock in a company, campaigning for big changes, then selling out when the stock goes up. But he did go after CEOs. “It’s anti-Darwinian: survival of the unfittest,” Icahn said. CEOs are simply former college fraternity presidents who advance in companies because they’re too dim to be threatening, he said.

“Now, the CEO of a company doesn’t want anybody under him smarter than him. Because if the guy’s smarter than me, he’s a threat. So he will only let these guys come up who are a little dumber. This guy keeps moving up and up and up. The CEO retires, and this guy becomes CEO. So by definition, you’re going to have morons running companies.”

Amusing, especially the way Icahn delivered it. We wondered if perhaps he had Time Warner Chairman and CEO Dick Parsons in mind, given his broadsides lately at the competence of the company’s executives. So we asked him after the show.

“No, no, no. I like Parsons,” Icahn said. “I’m on a comedy show. Come on, I’m not talking about each specific company, I’m not talking about Parsons.” Okaaay...