Last week, American business mogul Carl Icahn became a major investor in Netflix after purchasing a nearly 10 percent share in the company. Far from being a silent investor, Icahn immediately said to Bloomberg that Netflix was a good prospect to eventually sell its business to another company like Amazon, Microsoft, Verizon, or Google. Netflix's board has quickly drawn up and announced a new stockholder rights plan designed to protect against takeover efforts that the company's board determines are "not in the best interests of Netflix and its shareholders."
The plan gets triggered if any individual shareholder acquires more than 10 percent of Netflix's total shares and would give other shareholders the right to acquire more stock — thus flooding the market with more shares, making it difficult and costly for an investor to increase his ownership beyond that 10 percent threshold. The "poison pill" move is clearly a response to Icahn's investment, and while his thoughts on selling the company appeared to be preliminary, the Netflix board appears to view him as a potential threat and sought to limit his power as quickly as possible.
Turmoil is the new normal at Netflix
It's just the latest bit of turmoil for a company that has just started to pull itself together after a nightmare year in which the company dealt with consumer backlash first stemming from major price increases to loyal customers who took advantage of Netflix's streaming video service as well as its DVD by mail program. Netflix followed that up with a highly-ridiculed plan to spin its DVD rental and streaming services into two different companies, a scheme it scrapped shortly afterwards — but the damage was already done. Add in the constant struggle to acquire and maintain its streaming video library, challenges from Amazon, Apple, and Hulu, and this latest bit of managerial drama, and Netflix appears to be simultaneously one of the most important and most disorganized companies in the new media landscape. Icahn isn't known for backing down, so we'll see if he can formulate a response to Netflix's new plan.