Carl Icahn may owe Goldman Sachs, but the reverse is true, too. The banking titan on Thursday sued CVR Energy, an oil refiner the uppity billionaire just bought. Goldman unsuccessfully defended CVR, but alleges in a New York lawsuit that Icahn blocked the company from paying it $18.5 million of fees. Theirs is a classic Wall Street rivalry. Maybe Icahn reckons Goldman has made enough off his activism already.
Goldman’s case against Icahn seems like a pretty straight-forward debt collection. Icahn hasn’t proffered a defense and declined to comment. But CVR did hire Goldman in March to advise it when Icahn came a-calling. Goldman says its invoice was returned, unpaid.
Icahn’s impish reputation precedes him. That makes it entirely possible he’s having a bit of fun with his long-time adversary, relishing the spectacle of Goldman chasing him. Suing a former client, even if the claim is wholly justified, is unseemly business. The alleged refusal to pay also could just be a penny-pinching negotiating tactic to somehow reduce the fee.
Even if Goldman is indeed entitled to the money in this instance, it can’t deny that Icahn’s antics have been fruitful for it. In the last decade or so, Goldman has been hired at least 10 times, in deals tallying over $40 billion, to fend off his unwanted advances, according to Thomson Reuters data. And the activity has picked up with Icahn’s insatiable appetite for agitating on the rise, including at Dynegy, Clorox and Commercial Metals.
Though he often finds a way to make money from his targets, Icahn doesn’t usually succeed in buying them. Winning at CVR means he inherits the company’s liabilities, including what appears to be an unwanted banking tab. After all these years, Icahn may feel he deserves one on the house from Goldman. But it’s more likely he’ll wind up reluctantly writing a check to his nemesis.