Investor Carl Icahn turned his attack on Xerox up a notch Monday afternoon, calling for the removal of Xerox CEO Jeff Jacobson less than a year after he was appointed.
"The CEO is the most important person in the company. We believe Xerox still has potential, but it will go the way of Kodak if there aren’t major changes," Icahn told the Wall Street Journal. "The times have changed, but not the old guard that controls the board."
In the interview, Icahn said he wanted to avoid a board dispute, but added that Xerox denied his request to extend the deadline to nominate board directors. That resulted in Icahn supporter Jonathan Christodoro resigning from the board, ending the standstill agreement between Icahn and Xerox reached last year.
Icahn has nominated four candidates for election to the printing giant's board of directors, including Christodoro, who referenced disagreements between himself and other Xerox board members in a resignation letter submitted Friday. The other three candidates are Keith Cozza, Jay Firestone and Randolph Read.
"Until the last few weeks, it appeared that the Board’s decisions would be consistent with my views on the best interests of Xerox and our shareholders," Christodoro wrote. "It now appears, however, that the Board will make decisions and take Xerox in a direction with which I strongly disagree."
Jacobson has held the chief executive position since January, by which time Icahn had purchased more than 7 percent of the company. Former CEO Ursula Burns stepped down last year following the planned split between Xerox and services giant Conduent.
Icahn owns more than a 9 percent stake in Xerox, according to the Wall Street Journal, but only holds one seat on the company board. Three of Conduent's board seats belong to Icahn.
Xerox did not provide additional comment but pointed to a statement released Monday morning, in which the Norwalk, Conn.-based company pointed to its commitment to shareholders and a 30 percent year-to-date increase in stock price.
"In 2017 alone, we expect to meet or exceed our target of $600 million of gross cost savings, a critical step as we continue our journey to improving our revenue trajectory … Shareholders have recognized our strong progress: Xerox’s share price has increased almost 30 percent year-to-date, well in excess of the S&P 500," the company said.
In 2013, Icahn put forth significant efforts to derail Michael Dell's attempt to win shareholder support for privatization of his company. Dell ultimately prevailed, and in a 2014 interview with The Channel Company's Bob Faletra, Dell called Icahn "a bad guy" who lies and lacks ethical boundaries.
Xerox shares closed flat in trading on Monday at $29.59.