Carl Icahn got deadly serious with his plan to take control of seats on the board of Lionsgate on Friday, naming a slate of five candidates and stating that he wanted to replace Vice-Chairman Michael Burns.
The investor’s five nominees are former Overture chief Chris McGurk, former film executive Jay Firestone, former music executive Michael Dornemann, lawyer Daniel A. Ninivaggi and Harold T. Shapiro, the former president of Princeton.
The nominees were included in a filing Friday today with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
A vote on directors will take place at Lionsgate's annual meeting on Dec. 14.
In his bid for board seats, Icahn is aiming squarely at one of Lionsgate’s top executives and investors, urging shareholders to vote for nominees other than “Michael Burns, Harald Ludwig, G. Scott Paterson, Mark Rachesky MD and Hardwick Simmons.”
Somewhat surprisingly, Icahn left out CEO Jon Feltheimer, Burns’ partner in managing the independent studio.
"Perhaps he thinks that targeting one of the two heads is a more winnable battle, but I don't think it will work," Marla Backer, an analyst with Hudson Square Research, told TheWrap. "I just don't think that Lionsgate shareholders have been waiting for Icahn to come riding in on a white horse to save the day."
Icahn owns about 33 percent of the company. He has been engaged in a hostile takeover bid for the Vancouver based studio for much of the past year.
Lionsgate urged shareholders to reject Icahn's nominees and to vote for its candidates in a statement released Friday.
"Mr. Icahn has not articulated a vision for Lionsgate regarding how he would improve on these results and his nominees provide no further clarity on the critical issue of leading Lionsgate into the future," Lionsgate's statement read.
As a whole, the rebel slate represents a patchwork of Icahn loyalists and industry veterans.
McGurk is easily the most recognizable industry name on Icahn's list. Indeed, the activist investor had been actively courting McGurk to join his rebel slate recently. In return, TheWrap has learned McGurk is hoping to receive the CEO job at Blockbuster — the bankrupt video chain in which Icahn is a leading creditor.
Dornemann is also well-known in industry circles, having served on the board of directors at Columbia Music and headed up Bertelsmann Entertainment as its chief executive officer.
Firestone is also an old entertainment business hand, but his track record is more checkered. He departed money losing Fireworks Entertainment in 2003 after the production company's owner CanWest declined to renew his contract. His ties to Icahn extend back to IDPDistribution, a partnership between Fireston, Samuel Goldwyn Films, and the billionaire investor's Stratosphere Entertainment.
Rachesky is the other large shareholder in Lionsgate, a former Icahn protege who has supported current management and fended off Icahn thus far. He holds about 29 percent of Lionsgate.