Billionaire investor Carl Icahn sold out of Hertz Global Holdings Inc., the rental-car company that filed for bankruptcy last week, calling off a roughly six-year bet that lost him almost $1.6 billion.
Icahn, 84, sold his entire 55.3 million shares on Tuesday for 72 cents a share, according to a regulatory filing. His holding represented about 39 percent of the company’s stock.
“Hertz has encountered major financial difficulties and I support the board in their conclusion to file for bankruptcy protection,” Icahn said in the filing Wednesday. “Yesterday I sold my equity position at a significant loss, but this does not mean that I don’t continue to have faith in the future of Hertz.”
Icahn’s exit marks the end of what was a tumultuous and disappointing investment. He first took a position in the company in 2014 to agitate for the ouster of then-CEO Mark Frissora, and Hertz is on its fourth CEO since then. When the coronavirus then decimated the travel industry, the company was caught with too much debt accumulated over years of management turmoil and turnaround attempts.
“I believe that based on a plan of reorganization that includes new capital, Hertz will again become a great company,” Icahn said. “I intend to closely follow the company’s reorganization and I look forward to assessing different opportunities to support Hertz in the future.”
Icahn wasn’t immediately available for comment.
The on-paper loss Icahn registered from his Hertz stake doesn’t take into account the company’s spinoff of Herc Holdings Inc. in 2016. Icahn’s 15 percent stake in the equipment-leasing company is worth $134.9 million.
Hertz was sold by Ford Motor Co. to private equity funds in a 2005 leveraged buyout and taken public the next year. The company also levered up to buy Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group Inc. in 2012 after a two-year bidding war with rival Avis Budget Group Inc.
“It’s a saga about gross mismanagement,” said Maryann Keller, a longtime auto-industry consultant who was on the board of Dollar Thrifty when Hertz acquired the company. “It could have been salvaged had he picked the right management,” she said, referring to Icahn.