Carl Icahn Taps Former GE Executive to Be CEO of His Firm

04/04/2021 | 03:44am
Carl Icahn

By Cara Lombardo

After forcing companies to make countless CEO changes in his career, Carl Icahn is about to make one of his own.

The activist investor said he is hiring a former General Electric Co. executive to be CEO of his firm, which houses both his investment fund and a collection of companies he controls.

Aris Kekedjian, a 30-year GE veteran who was the industrial conglomerate's chief investment officer until 2019, is to be named Icahn Enterprises LP's chief executive and chief operating officer Monday, Mr. Icahn said in an interview.

Two longtime Icahn lieutenants -- current CEO Keith Cozza and Chief Financial Officer SungHwan Cho -- are leaving the firm. Mr. Icahn, who hired them in 2004 and 2006, respectively, praised their contributions and said they are leaving on excellent terms. A factor in the decision was that neither planned to relocate to the Miami area, where Mr. Icahn and his firm recently moved.

The firm is in the process of hiring a new finance chief, to be named at a later date.

The moves form part of a broader leadership overhaul accompanying the 85-year-old Mr. Icahn's move to Florida from New York and the naming of his son, Brett, as his eventual successor.

For now, the elder Mr. Icahn remains squarely in charge as chairman of Icahn Enterprises, which primarily manages the billionaire's own business interests and investment portfolio and hasn't managed outside money in years. Icahn Enterprises trades publicly and has a market value of around $13.3 billion.

At Icahn Enterprises, the CEO role involves overseeing the portfolio companies and interfacing with banks, while Mr. Icahn and Brett focus on stock-picking and investment decisions.

The elder Mr. Icahn, who has been notably bearish in the past few years, has become more sanguine. He says he gave up trying to predict the market's next move as a steady flow of pandemic aid and exuberance fanned by Reddit message boards keep it rising.

"It's like you're on some kind of new rocket ship and you don't know what the hell's going to happen," he said. "I do believe the rocket ship has got a way to go because of this unprecedented flood of capital. But eventually, unless we're extremely lucky, it will have a crash of large magnitude."

Mr. Kekedjian held roles at GE that included running its businesses in Europe and the Middle East. He oversaw efforts to simplify its giant finance arm and later helped orchestrate big deals including GE's 2017 merger of its oil-and-gas business with Baker Hughes and the merger of GE Transportation and Wabtec Corp. in 2019.

Mr. Icahn said Mr. Kekedjian's M&A chops will come in handy for engineering deals involving portfolio companies, which include refiner CVR Energy Inc. and Pep Boys auto shops.

In the first quarter, Icahn Enterprises' estimated indicative net asset value -- a rough measure of gross profit -- increased by around $800 million, including $376 million from the investment unit, Mr. Icahn said. The increase was partly due to significant reductions in its short positions in index funds and more of the firm's bread-and-butter activism.

Since Brett Icahn rejoined the firm in October, he played key roles in new activist positions in Bausch Health Cos. and FirstEnergy Corp. Both companies settled with the firm for board seats, including one now held by him at Bausch.

Write to Cara Lombardo at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

04-04-21 0544ET

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