Icahn To Apple’s Tim Cook: Buy Back $150B In Stock, Now

The recent release of singer Lorde's debut album "Pure Heroine" follows months of stateside hype and unprecedented success. In August, Lorde became the first woman to top the Billboard Alternative Songs chart in over 17 years. When Lorde (her real name is Ella Yelich-O'Connor) burst onto the music scene in her native New Zealand last November, it was impossible to predict how quickly she would rise to fame.

But now, less than a year after releasing her EP "The Love Club" for free online, her single "Royals" sits comfortably in the iTunes top 10, flanked by big names like Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and Avicii. In a pop era dominated by mindless hooks and unrelenting dubstep, Lorde stands out from her competition. While "Pure Heroine" is practically guaranteed to be a hit regardless of the quality of its content, the album lives up to the hype that precedes it. For the most part, Lorde delivers strong tracks driven by layered vocals and hypnotic beats.

At just 16, Lorde is surprisingly cynical, half intrigued by fame and half wary. A self-dubbed "Internet kid," she grew up with social media and American music at the tips of her fingers. She alternates between mocking and glorifying society's obsession with pop culture - either way, its influence can be felt throughout "Pure Heroine."

Lorde is very similar to Lana Del Rey - both singers have the "cool" factor and velvety voice down to an art. Lorde is significantly younger, though, and perhaps more disconnected from the persona that she hides behind. Unlike Del Rey, she sings little about relationships (which is refreshing), focusing instead on growing up in a working-class city. At her best, she captures both the monotony and excitement of the teenage experience with impressive insight, but at times, her lyrics are more pretentious than provoking. Lines proclaiming, "I'm kind of older than I was when I reveled without a care," become less meaningful when the person singing them is still in high school. Still, as the writer or co-writer of all of the songs on the album, her lyrics are generally relatable.

The album begins with the striking "Tennis Court," a previously released track, and continues its momentum with "400 Lux," a rare love song that intrigues listeners with a killer intro and haunting verses. Then comes the third and most recognizable song, "Royals." With its minimalistic style and showy chorus, "Royals" sets the tone for the entire record. Indeed, the latest single off the album, "Team," is very reminiscent of "Royals," once again contrasting the glamor of stardom with Lorde's self-proclaimed ordinary lifestyle and humble background. Just like the opening lines of "Royals," in which Lorde declares, "I've never seen a diamond in the flesh / I'm not proud of my address," the chorus of "Team" develops that theme even further: "We live in cities you'll never see on screen / Not very pretty, but we sure know how to run free." Regardless of the similarities, the track still holds it own as an impressive melodic feat, making it a standout on the album.

The same cannot be said for every song. Part of Lorde's appeal is that her music seems effortless, though sometimes this detracts from the overall effect of the album. A few of the songs never reach a climax, instead meandering aimlessly until they die out and transition into the next, catchier tune. "Buzzcut Season" and "Still Sane" lack the bravado of some of the other tracks and never really hit their strides. Lorde seems to recognize that the more fast-paced, energetic songs on the album pack the biggest punch and stacks them accordingly. Another upbeat tune, "White Teeth Teens" precedes the album's longest and last song, "A World Alone," which is Lorde's personal ode to solitude.

Lorde will find alone time difficult to come by as she trades in her small town lifestyle for international pop stardom. Whether you are an avid Lorde fan or merely in search of a new pop anthem after overplaying "We Can't Stop" all summer, this album deserves your attention. The songs are not as dance friendly as other radio fare, but there is an undeniable pulse running through the entire album. Lorde's career is just beginning, but she is already a creative force to be reckoned with - and will hopefully only grow better with age.

Carl Icahn, fresh off a victory lap at Netflix NFLX -1.73%, is turning up the burners on his effort at getting Apple AAPL +0.17% to shell out more cash to shareholders.

In a letter to Chief Executive Tim Cook Thursday, Icahn revealed he has increased his stake in the iPhone-maker to 4.7 million shares and called for an immediate tender offer from the company to repurchase $150 billion in stock at $525 per share, funded by some combination of debt and cash on hand.

According to Icahn, the move would immediately increase earnings per share by 33% (by reducing the share count) and send the stock price to $1,250 within three years. He also said he would pledge n0t to tender any of his shares in the buyback.

The billionaire also took a shot at the board’s lack of investment chops.

“In my opinion, any further delay in executing the buyback we hereby propose will reflect this lack of expertise on the board,” he writes. “My firm’s success and my expertise as an investor would be difficult for anyone to argue.”

Even with his increased stake, Icahn controls just half of one percent of Apple’s outstanding shares. But thanks to the septuagenarian’s current winning streak — including cashing in a bit more than half his Netflix stake for a 457% return this month — his voice carries considerable weight.

There is also recent precedent for activist investors nudging Apple toward deploying more capital to shareholders. In February, Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn, with an even smaller stake than Icahn’s, urged the board to borrow money and issue a new class of preferred stock. While Apple batted down that plan, it did incorporate pieces of it when it issued $17 billion in bonds a few months later to help fund a $100 billion capital return program — buybacks and dividends — through the end of 2015.

That plan satisfied some investors, but not Icahn, who came on board in August with the opinion that not enough of Apple’s prodigious cash flow is being returned to shareholders.

Shares of Apple are down 25% from their September 2012 peak of just over $705. At Thursday morning’s price of $524.59, Icahn’s stake was worth $2.5 billion and in his letter he expressed an intent to add to that position. Since the day before he first unveiled his stake on Twitter in August, Apple shares have risen 12%.

The company, which unveiled updates to its iPad and MacBook line Tuesday, is set to report quarterly earnings after the closing bell Monday, Oct. 28.

Icahn’s letter to Cook was published on Icahn’s new shareholder activism website, shareholderssquaretable.com, which also includes a cartoon that compares the relationship between shareholders and corporate boards and executives to feudalism. The site also includes a quote from Icahn at Texaco’s annual meeting in 1988:

” lot of people died fighting tyranny. The least I can do is vote against it.”

The full letter was published on Icahn’s new shareholder activism website, shareholderssquaretable.com, which also .


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