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Blows get lower in Moto versus Icahn battle

The ongoing spat between billionaire investor Carl Icahn and Motorola has taken a turn for the worst and turned into a ‘he said, he said’ personal quarrel.

On Monday, Icahn, who has spent $1.2bn on an almost 3 per cent stake in Motorola, took out a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal, slamming Motorola chief executive Ed Zander for a comment he made in a previous WSJ article.

“I love my job. I hate my customers,” ran the quote in question.

Icahn promptly used the comment as a stick to beat Zander with, accusing him of a “critical failure in oversight and leadership” and claiming that the company has “stumbled badly” under his direction.

On Zander’s comment itself, Icahn said that it sounded like a phrase “straight out of Alice in Wonderland.”

Icahn has been lobbying hard for a seat on Motorola’s board and is expected to redouble his efforts at the company’s AGM on Monday, May 7. Motorola and Zander have steadfastly rebuffed his moves.

On Wednesday night, Motorola hit back at Icahn with a personal attack of its own, referencing a televised interview recorded in November and replayed on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” program in the US on Tuesday night.

During the interview, Icahn commented on another director serving on multiple company boards and said: “How can a guy be on eight boards and know what the hell he’s doing?

“How can somebody sit on a board – even if he’s the smartest guy in the world – if he was Einstein – and understand what that company is doing?”

Duly returning the beating, Motorola said that according to CNBC, Icahn currently serves on eleven boards of directors, is chairman of four, and is seeking election to three more, including Motorola.

“Motorola’s board of directors does not believe Carl Icahn treats public company directorship with the appropriate level of seriousness and commitment,” the equipment manufacturer said.

“We will not allow Carl Icahn to use Motorola as his self-serving platform. This is not about governance; this is about Carl Icahn’s qualifications and commitment to serve on Motorola’s board,” the company said.

As the row escalates in proportion and declines in polite conduct, it looks increasingly like Monday’s meeting is going to be bloody.

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