Mar 14, 2023 - Economy

Carl Icahn sets his sights on Illumina

Photo illustration of Carl Icahn and abstract shapes.

Photo illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios. Photo: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Activist investor Carl Icahn launched a proxy fight for three board seats at biotech giant Illumina, which he believes erred in competing its controversial $7.1 billion takeover of liquid biopsy firm Grail.

Why it matters: This is the latest high-stakes chapter in Illumina's complicated history with Grail, which it developed, spun out and then repurchased several years later.

  • Most of it's been battling with antitrust regulators, including a decision to close the deal over FTC objections.
  • But now it also must deal with the Icahn, who argues that Illumina's board will "pursue Grail until the end of time without regard to the amount of value destruction they leave in their wake."

Investor reax: Yay!

  • Illumina shares jumped nearly 17% on Icahn's letter, after having lost over half their value since an August 2021 peak. Its current market cap is around $36 billion.

Illumina reax: Booooo!

  • The company says that Icahn's director nominees lack "relevant skills and experience," and that the activist investor doesn't properly understand Grail's value.

The bottom line: Illumina prevailed over the FTC, but is still fighting European antitrust regulators who have demanded that the Grail deal be unwound.

Go deeper