Carl Icahn, the subject of countless name-checks by Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, today joined a host of other business leaders who are jumping off of the MAGA train. The billionaire investor and veteran pot stirrer sent POTUS a letter saying he is leaving his unofficial presidential advisory post because he “did not want partisan bickering about my role to in any way cloud your administration.” Read the letter in full below.
Soon after Icahn was named as Trump’s special adviser on regulatory reform in December, Democratic critics decried that his unofficial role was a conflict of interest because he continued to run his businesses. He denied that in the resignation letter, saying: “I never had a formal position with your administration nor a policymaking role. And contrary to the insinuations of a handful of your Democratic critics, I never had access to nonpublic information or profited from my position, nor do I believe that my role presented conflicts of interest.”
When he joined the Trump team as regulatory adviser, Icahn said: “It’s time to break free of excessive regulation and let our entrepreneurs do what they do best: create jobs and support communities. President-elect Trump is serious about helping American families, and regulatory reform will be a critical component of making America work again.”
Icahn has been a familiar face — often a foe — to some media and entertainment companies, especially in the past half-decade. He began acquiring Netflix stock when it sold for about $60 in 2012, leading the company to devise a poison pill to keep him from taking it over. He began selling it off in late 2013 and ultimately sold his last shares in 2015 after the 2015 stock split.
He also famously waged an ultimately unsuccessful four-year battle to wrest control Lionsgate, admitting later, “You can’t win ’em all,” and waged a six-month effort to persuade Apple to do a stock buyback in 2012-13. In August 2014, Icahn began to amass a stake in Gannett. Within four months, be launched a proxy battle, anticipating a takeover of the TV, newspaper and digital power. That effort lasted about two months, ending after the company agreed to new governance terms.
Here is Icahn’s letter of resignation from his White House advisory role:
Dear Mr. President:
This will confirm our conversation today in which we agreed that I would cease to act as special advisor to the President on issues relating to regulatory reform.
As I discussed with you, I’ve received a number of inquiries over the last month regarding the recent appointment of Neomi Rao as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (or “regulatory czar,” as the press has dubbed her) – specifically questions about whether there was any overlap between her formal position and my unofficial role. As I know you are aware, the answer to that question is an unequivocal no, for the simple reason that I had no duties whatsoever.
I never had a formal position with your administration nor a policymaking role. And contrary to the insinuations of a handful of your Democratic critics, I never had access to nonpublic information or profited from my position, nor do I believe that my role presented conflicts of interest. Indeed, out of an abundance of caution, the only issues I ever discussed with you were broad matters of policy affecting the refining industry. I never sought any special benefit for any company with which I have been involved, and have only expressed views that I believed would benefit the refining industry as a whole.
Nevertheless, I chose to end this arrangement (with your blessing) because I did not want partisan bickering about my role to in any way cloud your administration or Ms. Rao’s important work. While I do not know Ms. Rao and played no part in her appointment, I am confident based on what I’ve read of her accomplishments that she is the right person for this important job.
I sincerely regret that because of your extremely busy schedule, as well as my own, I have not had the opportunity to spend nearly as much time as I’d hoped on regulatory issues. I truly appreciate the confidence you have in me and sincerely hope that the limited insights I shared have been helpful to you. I love our country which has allowed me to achieve so much and I thank you for the informal opportunity you have given me to aid it.
CARL C. ICAHN