SAN FRANCISCO — Billionaire Carl Icahn has taken a 10 percent stake in Netflix Inc., putting the world’s largest video streaming service in play and signaling a potential end to its days as an independent company.
The 76-year-old investor disclosed Wednesday a $168.9 million bet on Netflix, buying stock and options representing 5.54 million shares. The Los Gatos, Calif.-based company posted its biggest gain since January after Icahn said deep- pocketed competitors such as Amazon.com and Verizon Communications were potential suitors. Netflix has been the most aggressive player in establishing the market for online video, building a subscriber base of 25.1 million U.S. customers and nearly 5 million internationally. Its dominant hold positions the company as the biggest prize in a market that Icahn sees as ripe for consolidation. As consumers turn to the Internet for TV shows and movies, rivals must spend billions to overtake Netflix, or pay to acquire it. “This could be a great jumping off point for them,” Icahn said on Bloomberg Television.
Joris Evers, a spokesman for Netflix, declined to comment on Icahn’s stake. Robert Varettoni, a spokesman for New York- based Verizon, declined to comment on whether the company is interested in Netflix. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.