Minneapolis investor Irwin Jacobs, who has made rumblings about a possible attempt to take over giant ITT Corp., met last week with some of the conglomerate's top executives, sources said yesterday.
While the thrust of the conversations could not be learned, Jacobs -- a major ITT shareholder -- has been known to be less than happy with ITT's recent course.
Jacobs could not be reached for comment yesterday, and an ITT spokesman would say only that the company meets periodically with investors such as Jacobs.
Jacobs' total holdings in ITT is not known, but it is believed to be just below the 5 percent level at which he would be required to report it to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In addition, it is rumored in investment circles that associates of Jacobs may control another 12 percent of the company's stock.
ITT stock, which closed yesterday at 33 3/4, up 1/4 on volume of 1.4 million shares, has been moving higher in active trading in recent days, fueling speculation on Wall Street that Jacobs is ready to make some sort of an offer for the company.
Jacobs bought into ITT last fall and has been critical of the company's management. Among other things, he has complained that the company is too diverse and should sell off some assets to increase its profitability.
Partly in response to that criticism, ITT has divested about $1 billion worth of operations over the past few months.
Jacobs was particularly upset with ITT several weeks ago when it was revealed that the company had considered a takeover of Sperry Corp. Jacobs questioned whether such an action meshed with the company's divestiture program. ITT dropped the idea before Jacobs' criticism.