JetBlue, reeling from kiboshed Spirit merger, has a new suitor in corporate raider Carl Icahn who’s looking to get his mojo back

Misery loves company and after facing steep stock price declines of more than 50% each, activist investor Carl Icahn and JetBlue might need each other right now.

Icahn Enterprises disclosed a 9.9% ownership stake in airline JetBlue today, Icahn’s first foray back onto the dance floor after promising that the firm would “stick to our knitting” after short-seller Hindenburg Research published a biting criticism of the company last year. Shares of Icahn Enterprises are down about 72.2% during the past five years, and more than 60% since the Hindenburg report.

Meanwhile, JetBlue has been licking its wounds since a judge’s ruling blocked an estimated $3.8 billion merger with Spirit Airlines. JetBlue’s stock is down 66% during the past five years but rose about 16% after Icahn disclosed his shares in the airline today.

Icahn disclosed in the filing today that the firm acquired the JetBlue stock because it believes it is “undervalued and represented an attractive investment opportunity.” Icahn Enterprises has had discussions with board members and executives about seeking a seat on the JetBlue board and continues to hold talks with the airline, according to the filing.

In a statement, JetBlue said it welcomes Icahn’s overtures.

“We are always open to constructive dialogue with our investors as we continue to execute our plan to enhance value for all of our shareholders and stakeholders,” said the company in an email.

However, the timing for JetBlue may be less than ideal given that the company’s new CEO, Joanna Geraghty, moved to the helm officially today. Geraghty was president and chief operating officer since 2018 and previously served as executive vice president and chief people officer. Chief operating officer Warren Christie also officially started today, after serving as head of security, safety, and fleet operations.   

Geraghty replaced departing CEO Robin Hayes, who served in the role since February 2015. Hayes will stick around on the 10-person board, which is chaired by Peter Boneparth. Dealing with Icahn might be old hat for him. Boneparth is a former senior advisor to a division of investment management firm The Blackstone Group and a former advisor to private equity firm Irving Capital Partners. He also chairs the board of Kohl’s, which faced off with a group of activists in 2021.

It was also an eventful Monday for Icahn Enterprises. 

Utility company American Electric Power announced today that it had reached an appointment and nomination agreement with Icahn’s funds to appoint two new directors to the board. Icahn Enterprises senior managing director Hunter Gary joined the AEP board along with Henry Linginfelter, former executive vice president of Southern Company Gas. Gary’s appointment is subject to regulatory approvals and he won’t have voting rights until the company gets them. 

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