- Carl Icahn cautions against playing the market and recommends taking a contrarian view.
- He defends activist investing and trashes overpaid, subpar executives.
- Here are his 12 best quotes from a recent documentary titled “Icahn: The Restless Billionaire.”
Carl Icahn warned against trading stocks, following the crowd, and getting too cocky in a recent documentary.
The billionaire investor and Icahn Enterprises chairman also defended activist investing, and railed against bad bosses and overpaid executives, in “Icahn: The Restless Billionaire.” Moreover, he revealed that he cares more about spotting golden opportunities than making money, and bemoaned America’s enormous wealth gap.
Here are Icahn’s 12 best quotes, lightly edited for length and clarity:
1. “You always pay for hubris. In ’62, the market broke. Terrible. I was wiped out. I don’t know which went first, the Galaxie or the girlfriend I had. After that, I never played the market again.”
2. “Playing the market, it’s a competitive area, it’s gambling. Too many variables, too many people competing with you. You can’t believe that the gambling will carry you. So, you look for something I call a ‘no-brainer.’ Very little risk, but a lot of reward. After a while, it becomes somewhat instinctive, that you see something
that’s not really apparent to everyone.”
3. “You have to buy things where the rest of the world is looking at you and thinking you’re a little bit crazy. You’re going against the trend. A lot of times, events are overblown. Overblown on the good side, overblown on the bad side.”
4. “It’s sort of a colorful term, ‘corporate raider,’ but it’s far from the truth. It’s absolutely ridiculous related to what we do. It’s the opposite of what we do. We bring things to the party. We don’t raid them and take them out. That’s why I think eventually it was changed to ‘activist.’ But activist or raider, I haven’t changed what I do one iota. Call me whatever you want.”
5. “I don’t like to start wars. But if somebody wants to start one with me, there’s something in me that likes that because I’m really looking forward to going at them.”
6. “The winning, that’s not the motivation for me. The motivation is finding something you know is going be good, and the odds are greatly in your favor. Winning is a bit of a letdown, actually. You did it all. Now it worked. On to the next one.”
7. “Coming up with a new idea to beat the competitors, that gets me excited.The money is just a goal. It’s like the explorers, why do they keep doing it? They believe in going for the gold, like Cortes and these guys. But I think the actual finding and doing is much more exciting than having it.”
8. “Companies are the backbone of our society, and many are terribly managed and there’s no accountability. When you can change that, you will have some collateral damage, there’s no question. It’s creative destruction. But we bring in the innovation, so we have companies that are more productive, create more jobs, in a macro picture.”
9. “I think I proved it by making all this money. This system should be changed and that we should have true corporate democracy and accountability. Frankly, I made this money because the system is so bad, not because I’m a genius.”
10. “The wealth gap between the very rich and the very poor is getting wider and wider. People on Wall Street are tremendously overpaid. The investment bankers make ridiculous incomes, relative to what they contribute. Part of it is the ridiculous amount of money that top management is paid for doing a poor job. Most CEOs are way overpaid. That’s not even a secret.”
11. “I don’t say every company should do buybacks for the purpose of financial engineering. In fact, it’s overdone. But in this case, it was crazy for them to have all of this cash around and be doing nothing with it.” (Icahn was discussing his billion-dollar Apple bet.)
12. “It’s like Alexander the Great, right? He’s 31 years old and he won Persia. To everybody in the world, he was the best and the greatest. But he cried because he didn’t think there was anyplace else to go to do battle. He put his army together and then he went to India. The army all worshiped him, but a lot of them deserted because they said he’s crazy. He just kept going and going until they killed him. And I think about that. I’m a little bit like that. Just keep going at it.”