The Icahn Lift

60 Minutes' Lesley Stahl Profiles The Billionaire Investor

CBS All Access
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This segment was originally broadcast on March 9, 2008. It was updated on Aug. 8, 2008.

It takes a certain breed of stock market investor, the kind with lots of money and lots of guts, to thrive in queasy times like these, when the market keeps losing altitude. Carl Icahn is one of that breed.

He has a knack for turning someone else's loss into profit for himself. But he can also help others improve their bottom line through the so-called "Icahn Lift," an upward bounce that often happens when he starts buying a beleaguered stock.

When we first broadcast our story on Icahn in March 2007, the subprime mortgage crisis and recession fears were just beginning to take a toll on the markets. With the Dow Jones down by more than 10 percent this year, most investors are tearing their hair out. But not Icahn. As correspondent Lesley Stahl found out he has a habit of pouncing when everyone else is losing their shirts.

The day Stahl visited Icahn Enterprises the stock market was swinging wildly, at one point dropping 300 points.

Icahn, who works in a skyscraper suite overlooking New York's Central Park, called it a "tough day."

"I think I lost today," he told Stahl.

Actually, he lost big: well over $150 million that one afternoon. But when Stahl spoke with him a few days later, Icahn told her, "No big deal!"

He lives by the mogul's credo: never let 'em see you sweat. "I was buying that day," he said. "I mean, seriously, I was very happy about that."

"You looked like you were…frazzled and…," Stahl pointed out.

"Well, I'm always frazzled. I mean, look at now, I combed my hair. But I'm always got so much going on. And I enjoy that," he said.

One of his biggest holdings, Motorola, plunged 19 percent that day. But Icahn, the ultimate risk taker, was gobbling up more shares in the company.

Motorola is a perfect example of how Icahn operates. First he chooses a company he thinks is poorly run and trading below value. Two years ago he started buying up millions of shares of Motorola; now he controls over a billion dollars worth of stock.

As he usually does, he's been making demands in order to jolt up the sagging stock price. His first demand was to dump the CEO; that happened in December. Then, he demanded a break up the company.

His goal is always the same: to reap a hefty a profit for himself.

He's been successful, say Wall Streeters, because he's intimidating and relentless.

"With me I think generally they take the attitude: 'Try to make peace, try to work with him, because he's not going away,'" Icahn explained.

"Is it 'cause you have so much money?" Stahl asked.

"Well, and they know my nature," he replied.

Asked what his nature is, Icahn told Stahl, "That I'm not going away. That I'm an obsessive guy. That I'm comin' here, I've done it, and there's no way I'm leaving till they do something."