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After several unsuccessful overtures to broker a deal with management, Carl Icahn plans to launch a proxy fight for Santa Clara, Calif.-based VISX Inc., the largest manufacturer of laser systems used for corrective laser vision surgery, according to documents filed Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The high-profile buyout icon believes VISX should be sold to a large healthcare products company with deeper pockets and a larger distribution network. This fall, two investment firms controlled by Icahn accumulated 9.9 percent of VISX common stock. But after management rebuffed even casual conversation about his proposals, Icahn decided to propose an alternative group of directors at the VISX annual meeting in May. The slate of directors include Jerome Becker, chairman of the New York State Housing Finance Agency; Robert Knauss, chief executive of the investment firm Baltic International; Samuel Waksal, CEO of the biotech firm Imclone Systems Inc.; Paul Zegger, a partner at the law firm Pennie & Edmonds; Icahn; and his chief investment officer, Russell Glass. The corporate and financial structure of VISX should allow Icahn to gain control if shareholders endorse his directors. Each of VISX’s six directors will be up for re-election at the meeting and management owns less than 4 percent voting stock. In May, Alcon Laboratories Inc., the ophthalmic products subsidiary of Vevey, Switzerland-based NestlE SA, bought Waltham, Mass.-based Summit Autonomous for $900 million in cash or 10 times sales. VISX could demand a premium valuation due to its leading market share and better profit margins. Based on comparable valuation, VISX would be valued at $2.1 billion or $32.75 per share. Shares of VISX closed up $1.25 to $18.06 prior to Icahn’s disclosure but well below the recent high of $90.12. Copyright (c)2000 TDD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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