Business

Corporate Battle Brews at Blockbuster

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Blockbuster's annual meeting Tuesday could be as exciting as one of the movies in the company's thriller section. Corporate raider Carl Ichan wants to remove Blockbuster's chairman and two other board members.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The business news includes a battle over Blockbuster. A corporate raider who once spent his energy on the airline industry is turning his attention to videos. Billionaire Carl Icahn is trying to unseat the chairman and two other board members at Blockbuster, which is why today's annual meeting has shades of an action thriller. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY reporting:

Carl Icahn is Blockbuster's biggest shareholder. His dissatisfaction with the company's management spilled out in a public conference call last week on Blockbuster's first-quarter losses.

(Soundbite of conference call)

Unidentified Woman: Your next question is coming from Carl Icahn with Icahn Company.

Mr. CARL ICAHN (Icahn Company): Yes, how do you do?

HORSLEY: What followed was a testy exchange between Icahn and Blockbuster chairman and CEO, John Antioco. Before he was finally cut off by the operator, Icahn challenged Antioco over his bonus, his accountability and his strategy for the company.

(Soundbite of conference call)

Mr. ICAHN: Well, I think I'd like to answer what you say, because I think what you say is completely mischaracterization again.

Mr. JOHN ANTIOCO (Blockbuster Chairman & CEO): OK, we're not going to let you respond to that. You can have an opportunity to...

Mr. ICAHN: Well, you haven't answered my questions, any of them.

Mr. ANTIOCO: Well...

Mr. ICAHN: Are you willing to say...

Mr. ANTIOCO: Oh, yes.

Mr. ICAHN: ...that you won't take anymore bonuses? It just doesn't work.

HORSLEY: At issue is how Blockbuster should respond as its traditional video rental business shrinks in the face of new competition. Antioco has tried to revive the business by dropping late fees and investing in an online service. Icahn sees those as costly gambles that may or may not pay off. He wants bigger dividends instead. Antioco says if he's kicked off the Blockbuster board, he'll quit the CEO's post as well. The vote counting for the board of directors won't be finished today, so the shareholders' meeting will end with a cliffhanger.

Scott Horsley, NPR News.

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