Carl Icahn is one of Wall Street's most successful figures and has been shaking up corporate America for decades. The legendary investor was first thrown onto the world scene during the leveraged buyout boom of the 1980s when many profitable corporations were plundered for personal profit. During this time, Icahn earned a reputation as a “corporate raider” due to his tendency to build stakes in companies with the intention of pushing their management to increase shareholder value and fix their problematic business practices.
As a result, the companies in which Icahn piled into often felt the "Icahn lift" for their stock prices. Over the years, he has tangled with a myriad of businesses, ranging from airlines, to media conglomerate Viacom, and food conglomerate RJR Nabisco. In 2013 Icahn he sold nearly 50% of his stock in Netflix for over $800 million in profit. This transaction is said to be one of the largest stock gains in history. In 2020, according to Forbes list of wealthiest people in the world, Icahn was #26, with a net worth of $16.7 billion. A noted philanthropist, with a special interest in abused and neglected children, Icahn founded the Icahn House, a home for single mothers and their children. To date the Icahn Family Foundation supports a broad range of charitable and educational organizations.
Icahn's historic journey can be traced back to the early success he found on the Princeton campus as an undergraduate. Unlike many of his blueblood classmates, Icahn's life so far had been humble, having grown up in Far Rockaway, Queens —a deprived area of New York. Despite being told by his teachers not to waste his time applying to any Ivy League schools, Icahn would eventually be accepted by every single one. To help pay for college costs, Icahn sold advertisements for Daily Princetonian, and spent his summers working as a cabana boy and construction worker. On top of his class work, Icahn was also a member of Prospect Club, where he played intramural sports. Classmates recall that he was an expert chess player, known for having a keen, analytical mind. In 1957 Icahn graduated from Princeton University with an A.B. in philosophy. A sharp student, he was awarded the McCosh Prize for the finest thesis written by a student in the Philosophy Department.
Icahn's deep relationship with his alma mater has only strengthened since his graduation. To show appreciation, the billionaire financier has made numerous generous gifts over the decades. The biggest of these gifts came in 1999 when Icahn gave his alma mater $20 million to construct a state-of-the-art laboratory. Known as The Carl C. Icahn Laboratory, the facility now helps promote the study of the human genome. Icahn's donation was part of The Anniversary Campaign for Princeton, launched in 1995 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the signing of the University's charter. Upon the building’s completion in 2003, the Wall Street tycoon was back on campus to speak at the dedication ceremony, noting how closely he tied his professional success to his student years on Princeton's historic campus.