Icahn opposes new directors chosen by Occidental CEO

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Activist investor Carl Icahn, who has launched a proxy fight to win seats on Occidental Petroleum's OXY.N board, said on Wednesday he opposed efforts by the Houston-based company to name new directors without picking from his slate.

FILE PHOTO: Billionaire activist-investor Carl Icahn gives an interview on FOX Business Network's Neil Cavuto show in New York, U.S. on February 11, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Icahn cited a Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst’s report published on Monday that quoted CEO Vicki Hollub as saying the oil producer’s board planned to make governance changes, including the appointment of two “qualified” directors.

Occidental had previously dismissed his candidates as inadequate.

The activist investor owns nearly $2 billion in shares of oil and gas producer Occidental, and last month launched a battle to remove four Occidental directors and replace them with his own, four-person slate.

On Wednesday, he blasted Hollub for looking for directors “anywhere but in our direction,” asking in an open letter to shareholders why his candidates had not been considered.

A spokesman for Occidental did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We’re going to keep fighting them,” said Icahn in an interview on Wednesday. “Unless we get on the board, we’re not going away until the annual meeting” next year, he said.

Icahn, who continues to seek support for a consent solicitation, predicted he would get 20% of Occidental shareholders to call on the company to set a record date for a vote.

"We have proposed four highly-qualified director candidates," Icahn said in his letter. His slate includes two executives of his hedge fund, the former finance chief of a U.S. consumer products company, and the former president of Royal Dutch Shell's RDSa.L U.S. arm.

Occidental completed a $38 billion purchase of rival Anadarko Petroleum this month, a deal that Icahn had opposed, calling it “hugely overpriced.”

He criticized the firm’s existing directors for failing to give shareholders a say on the purchase. He has claimed Occidental pursued Anadarko to avoid becoming a takeover candidate.

A suit against Occidental, seeking documents on its pursuit of Anadarko and deal with Berkshire Hathaway Corp will be heard in a Delaware court next month, he said.

Berkshire committed $10 billion to bankroll the Occidental-Anadarko deal on terms that Icahn said were too favorable to Berkshire.

Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru and Gary McWilliams in Houston; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Rosalba O’Brien