Carl Icahn and Illumina Proxy Fight Heats Up

Illumina sign in front of building

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Key Takeaways

  • Biotechnology firm Illumina (ILMN) urged shareholders not to vote for the board nominees put forward by activist investor Carl Icahn.
  • Illumina's board claimed that Icahn's involvement could be damaging to the company.
  • Icahn has criticized Illumina's actions related to the acquisition of cancer-detection test company GRAIL in September 2020.

The proxy fight between billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn and Illumina (ILMN) is getting more heated.

The biotech firm's board told investors not to vote for the three Icahn Group board nominees on the ballot for the 2023 shareholders' meeting. The board argued that Icahn's involvement "risks the long-term success" of the company and that the nominees chosen, Vincent Intrieri, Jesse Lynn, and Andrew Teno, "bring no relevant skills to the Board of Directors."

The board said that Icahn is not a long-term Illumina shareholder and made no attempt to engage constructively with the company before demanding board representation.

Icahn Letter

Earlier this month, Icahn sent an open letter to shareholders saying that the Illumina lost $50 billion in market capitalization since August 2021 as a direct result of "ill-advised (and frankly inexplicable) actions" taken in connection with the $8 billion acquisition of cancer-detection test maker GRAIL in September 2020. Illumina closed the deal in August 2021, ahead of European regulatory approval. Last year, European officials ruled that it violated antitrust rules and ordered a divestiture. Illumina is appealing the decision.

Icahn, who holds a 1.4% stake in Illumina, claimed that, because of the costly bungling of the GRAIL purchase, the management team and board should be fired and investigated. He indicated that, over the past few weeks, "we have been working privately to try to find a way to help Illumina and our fellow shareholders," but to no avail, so the decision was made to launch a proxy contest. 

Shares of Illumina were up 1.5% on March 30, 2023. They're down 56% since the GRAIL deal closed.

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  1. Illumina. "Illumina Files Preliminary Proxy, Urging Shareholders to Vote for Its Director Nominees and Withhold for Each Icahn Group Nominee."

  2. Carl Icahn. "Open Letter to Shareholders of Illumina, Inc."

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