A similar bid in 2011 to slice up rival JLG Industries failed, but a more recent battle for control of rental concern Hertz saw the corporate raider use his 8.5% stake to get three appointees on the board and control of the selection of CEO in return for not launching a costly proxy fight.
Now Icahn wants to use the same tactics to hive off Manitowoc's crane division from its food business.
Icahn is on the record as saying that Manitowoc’s shares are undervalued.
Manitowoc recently announced that its crane business would post a single digit decline in revenues for 2014, although it believed that the crane market had a good long-term future and planned to expand its product line this year.
Its food business, a historic outgrowth of its port crane investment, produces ice machines and refrigeration equipment for businesses such as Coca Cola. In 2008 it expanded into the smaller market by targeting UK-based restaurant equipment supplier Enodis.
The food business is seen as an attempt by New York-listed Manitowoc to diversify the business beyond the cyclical construction sector.
Both divisions are profitable and largely self-contained.
The crane business generates two thirds of the firm’s revenue, albeit a share that is declining due to weakness in the North American and Latin American markets.
Its income was down 3.2% to $3.2 billion for the last three quarters, while in contrast the food services business experienced stronger double digit growth.
Icahn’s stake makes him the third largest investor in Manitowoc. Another activist shareholder, Relational Investors, holds an 8.5% stake and was previously interested in carving up the company.
Manitowoc controls a number of brands including its namesake crawler cranes, its all-terrain Grove band, the French tower crane Potain business and its telescoping boom arm National Crane.
It also operates the popular Manitowoc Crane Care arm.