Carl Icahn dials down his opposition to Cigna-Express Scripts deal

Carl Icahn no longer plans to solicit votes from Cigna Corp. shareholders against the health insurer’s $54 billion deal to buy Express Scripts Holding Co. after two proxy-advisory firms recommended shareholders support the deal, the billionaire activist investor said in a statement Monday.

Significant shareholder overlap between the two companies, which he initially hoped had decreased since the deal was announced, was also a factor in his decision, he said.

Even before proxy advisers Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis recommended in recent days that shareholders support the deal, Icahn faced an uphill battle. He didn’t publicly criticize the deal until well after the record date, which meant he couldn’t recruit others to jump in and oppose it.

And his position in Cigna CI, -0.83%  amounted to about 0.56% of the company, so he would have needed to win a lot of support. He also held a short position in Express Scripts ESRX, +0.45% , which meant he was betting on the stock losing value. Another prominent hedge fund, Glenview Capital Management LLC, came out last week in support of the deal.

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