Retro Raider Strikes Again

Aging corporate raiders don't die; they just seem to keep making money. So it has been for Carl Icahn, the classic corporate raider of the 1980s.

Icahn is far from retirement. Among his recent deals: He bought a position in Hollywood Entertainment (Nasdaq: HLYW  ) , which is being pursued by Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI  ) . He bought a piece of Mylan Laboratories (NYSE: MYL  ) , thus blocking a merger with King Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: KG  ) . There was a purchase of ImClone Systems (Nasdaq: IMCL  ) to shake things up.

Then, he bought anywhere from $200 million to $1 billion of Temple-Inland (NYSE: TIN  ) , according to a recent SEC filing. It was timely, as yesterday the company posted strong financial results. This cardboard packaging manufacturer has certainly benefited from the inflation in commodities prices. Profits surged to $55 million in the fourth quarter, which was up from a $39 million loss in the same period in 2003. The company also plans to buy back up to 10% of its outstanding shares and increase its dividend by 25%.

The stock closed unchanged yesterday at $75.75. It had surged 16% last Friday when Carl Icahn's interest in the stock became public.

Icahn is a billionaire for a very good reason: He has a tremendous ability to find undervalued stocks -- and to agitate companies to realize the value gap. In fact, Icahn's likely motives would make Temple-Inland look much like a throwback to a typical 1980s deal; that is, if the past is any guide, Icahn presumably wants to bust up the company.

Temple-Inland also has another throwback to the 1980s: a poison pill. This is a defense against corporate raiders like Carl Icahn. In this case, if Icahn buys more than 25% of the company's stock, he will suffer prohibitive dilution, as the company will just issue more and more stock to existing shareholders. However, Icahn is a pro at dealing with poison pills, having gotten past them before. Besides, Icahn will likely have enough shares to be a powerful force in the major decisions of the company. It would be hard for Temple-Inland's management and shareholders to resist him in unity for long.

So far, the company has taken various restructuring moves, which should mean savings of $75 million in 2005, according to its CEO. But, of course, Icahn is really never satisfied.

For example, Temple-Inland owns 2 million acres of forest land. Why not get cash for this? After all, isn't real estate red hot?

The company also has a mortgage business. Again, why not sell this, too?

This is probably a case where the parts are worth more than the whole. And, yet again, Icahn will probably prevail.

Fool contributor Tom Taulli does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.

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