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from Breakingviews:

Icahn loses battle of bluster at eBay

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By Robert Cyran
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Carl Icahn has lost the battle of bluster at eBay. The activist investor is quitting his proxy fight now that the company is appointing one new director and agreeing to talk to him. Considering Icahn had “never seen worse governance” and was broadly right about the benefits of eBay separating its PayPal unit, that’s a retreat. But he may yet win the war.

Icahn went in hard, pulling no punches with his allegations of conflicts of interest on the part of some eBay board members. One was Mark Andreessen, whose venture capital firm’s participation in the $2.75 billion buyout of Skype from eBay carried the tang of conflict – although the company and Andreessen said that such matters were handled appropriately.

More importantly, Icahn’s push for a spinoff of PayPal makes financial sense, as Breakingviews has argued over the years. Though some of the online payment unit’s new customers come via eBay’s auction business, an increasing majority originates from outside its walls. Separating the two – perhaps partially to begin with – could boost PayPal’s growth prospects and its value.

from Breakingviews:

Jamie Dimon hits final stage of grief: acceptance

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By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

In coping with the tragedy of the financial crisis, no Wall Street executive has exhibited the five stages of grief like Jamie Dimon. The JPMorgan chief executive has passed through phases of denial, anger, bargaining and depression. His latest annual letter to shareholders finally shows a desire to accept what’s happened and move on.

from Breakingviews:

A field guide to shareholder-friendly activism

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By Richard Beales
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The rise of shareholder activism has made it harder to distinguish between different species. Many corporate agitators say they are acting for all investors. Billionaire Carl Icahn’s online mission statement, for instance, touts “a platform from which we can unite and fight for our rights as shareholders and steer towards the goal of real corporate democracy.” Whether that’s true depends largely on the goals and methods used. Breakingviews provides a field guide to the activist animal kingdom.

from Breakingviews:

Blythe Masters could chair Glencore

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By Christopher Hughes
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Blythe Masters’ exit from JPMorgan with the sale of its physical commodities business could solve Glencore’s longstanding search for a chairman. The brains behind the credit default swap has the expertise to join the trading house’s board, whose all-male roll makes it an anachronism in the FTSE-100. But there is one big obstacle to her leading this or any board – she has never run a company before.

from Breakingviews:

Rob Cox: GE should put itself up for sale

By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

General Electric should sell itself. If that sounds like an April Fools’ Day joke, think again. It’s a real proposal on the ballot at the industrial group’s annual meeting. Setting aside the absence of any obvious buyer for the $260 billion company, the proposition illustrates the kind of shareholder democracy gone wild that many boards, and even some regulators, would like to squelch. They have half a point.

from Breakingviews:

Boards’ defender-in-chief keeps fighting last war

By Reynolds Holding

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Corporate boards’ defender-in-chief keeps fighting the last war. Lawyer Marty Lipton proved again at the New Orleans M&A confab that he can give as good as he gets. But prior panelists’ emphasis on improving governance and shareholder value made his swipes at activists seem dated. The legal lion’s roars are sounding more stubborn than persuasive.

from Breakingviews:

Time for Sheryl Sandberg to lean out of Facebook

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By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The time has come for Sheryl Sandberg to lean out of Facebook. Not because the social network’s chief operating officer has done a poor job – quite the contrary. She was the adult supervisor as Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room creation became a $165 billion enterprise. The founder is now doing his own thing, as his latest acquisition shows. For Sandberg, that makes him more of a liability.

from Breakingviews:

Roman corporate governance purge could backfire

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By Neil Unmack

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Rome’s corporate governance purge could backfire. The Italian Treasury wants state-controlled companies to force anyone under criminal investigation for financial crimes off boards of directors. The intention is laudable, but the plan is ill-conceived.

from Breakingviews:

Dimon deputy epitomizes succession of all sorts

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By Antony Currie
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Jamie Dimon’s loss of a top deputy on Tuesday epitomizes succession issues of all sorts. Key lieutenant Mike Cavanagh has given up a shot at following his mentor atop JPMorgan for one helping run private equity firm Carlyle Group. The move shakes up leadership plans for both companies and also underscores a bigger shift in finance.

from Breakingviews:

A credible strategy for Barclays’ investment bank

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By Dominic Elliott
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinion expressed is his own.

Barclays’ Transform plan needs urgent transformation. Chief Executive Antony Jenkins’ year-old strategy to revamp the UK lender is already struggling. First, the Bank of England jacked up gross equity-to-assets requirements last summer, necessitating a scrambled 5.8 billion pound rights issue and a one-year delay to the bank’s 12 percent return-on-equity target. Then Jenkins reneged on an assumed policy of reining in pay – and justified it with a decidedly pre-crunch declaration of needing to pay up to retain talent.

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