SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Activist investor Carl Icahn is seeking the support of Apple shareholders as he tries to pressure the iPhone maker into spending more of its cash to buy back the company's stock.
Icahn fired the latest volley in his two-month-old crusade with a Wednesday disclosure that he has submitted a proposal to Apple Inc. that would enable the company's shareholders to vote on his ideas early next year. The announcement came on Icahn's own Twitter account and in an interview with Time magazine.
The attempt to gather more allies for Icahn's cause could set up a showdown between an acerbic billionaire and one of the world's most powerful companies.
But this battle seems unlikely to be as acrimonious as the many other attacks that Icahn has led on corporate boards that haven't acceded to his wishes after he has bought large stakes in their companies.
As he has in previous public statements, Icahn used his Time interview to express his admiration for Apple CEO Tim Cook, one of the eight directors on the company's board.
"Tim Cook is doing a good job with the business," Icahn told Time. "I think he's good whether he does what I want or not." The comments were made as part of a Time story that hails Icahn as "the most important investor in America" on the magazine's cover.
In another sign that Icahn is trying to maintain a cordial relationship with Apple even as he pesters the company, he made his proposal in a "precatory" form that makes it nonbinding even if a major of shareholders vote for it. Nevertheless, Apple's board could face a backlash if it ignored the will of shareholders, even on a nonbinding measure.
Icahn, 77, didn't respond to a request for comment.
Under pressure from other shareholders earlier this year, Apple agreed to spend $60 billion buying back its stock. That is in addition to about $40 billion in dividend payments that Apple expects to distribute to shareholders during the next three years.