Biogen, Icahn trade insults via the SEC

Remember when shareholder Carl Icahn bullied Biogen Idec into putting itself on the block last year? The company entertained offers but ended up saying, "No deal." Now, Icahn and Biogen are trading jabs in front of investors. In letters to shareholders in advance of the annual meeting--where Icahn is backing three directors for election to the board--Icahn called Biogen execs liars. "[A] number of the statements made by Biogen during this proxy contest are untrue," he wrote, under an all-caps headline that screamed "BIOGEN'S SALES PROCESS: WHEN WILL WE KNOW THE TRUTH?"

Not to be outdone, Biogen wrote its own letter to shareholders, lobbying them to vote for the company's candidates for the board instead of Icahn's. "Carl Icahn is promoting a self-serving agenda," the filing states. "Mr. Icahn and his nominees have put forth no ideas to improve stockholder value."

One issue, as Icahn sees it, is whether a potential buyer walked because it couldn't talk to the Irish drugmaker Elan, which partners with Biogen on the multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri. According to Icahn's SEC filing, the news of this bidder only emerged because he sued Biogen over the sale-that-wasn't. But a Biogen spokeswoman said the board was kept apprised throughout the bidding process.

Who'll win the war of words--and proxies? We'll have to wait till June 19, the day of Biogen's annual meeting, to find out for sure.

- read the Boston Globe article
- see the item at the WSJ Health Blog