How Should Bill Ackman And Carl Icahn Settle This Thing Once And For All?

When Mark Hughs founded a multi-level marketing company called Herbalife in 1980, he probably thought it had the power to do a lot of things. Help people lose weight. Makes others rich. Shake up the diet industry. What he mostly likely did not expect, however, was that his li’l company that could would reignite a feud between two billionaires that would devolve into a flurry of press releases quibbling over who was dying to be friends with whom, shouting matches on live TV, and, we predict, someone telling someone else he has a right mind to “Rip the eyes out of your head and piss into your dead skull! You messed with the wrong hedge fund manager!”

Obviously, we’re talking about Bill Ackman and Carl Icahn, who’ve never had good things to say about one another but recently cranked their unbridled hatred for the other several notches. For those just tuning in, yesterday afternoon, Icahn took to Bloomberg TV to remind the world that he doesn’t like Bill Ackman, he doesn’t trust Bill Ackman, and he doesn’t respect Bill Ackman. Icahn went onto say that he didn’t think Ackman shorted Herbalife in the “right” way and suggested– by saying outright– that the notion Ackman is donating his winnings to charity is bull shit because his LPs will still get paid.

None of this sat well with the Pershing Square founder, who last night issued a press release detailing the business deal that he and Icahn collaborated on a decade ago– the original source of their bad blood– which revealed Icahn to be a guy you can’t trust and with whom you would not want to share a beer, which is why Ackman refused Carl’s request to be friends.

Now it was old Carl’s turn to be get angry about the way his nemesis chose to characterize him, and he wasted no time putting together a counterpunch. As for why his statement came out nearly 12 hours after Bill’s, we assume that it took a while to get typed up, because he was dictating it to someone (oh to be a fly on that wall) and also because he really want to nail the last line.

In 2003 I helped Bill Ackman out of a jam he was in with a fund called Gotham Partners, by buying Gotham’s stake in a company called Hallwood Partners.

In our stock purchase agreement with Gotham they were entitled to an earnout equal to 50% of our profit on the Hallwood shares if we “sold or otherwise transferred” those shares. This was to protect Bill from looking bad to his investors if we went out and flipped the stock to someone else.

We never sold or transferred the Hallwood shares. Instead Hallwood was acquired in a merger transaction that we voted against.

We did not believe that the agreement covered such a situation, based on cases in a number of states, and it was very clear from my negotiations with Bill that that he was not to be paid under these circumstances. However Bill sued and was able to convince New York courts not to follow the law in other states.

But I know, and I am positive that Bill also knows, that it was never our deal that we should pay Gotham in a situation like this. And if my written agreement was as clear as my negotiations with Bill Ackman we would not have had to pay him.

To get the record straight, I never asked Ackman to be my friend. Quite to the contrary, Ackman has stated to me on more than one occasion that it’s a shame we are not friends because then he could have invested with me. But, even if we were friends, I would never have invested with him because I believe he takes inordinate risks. HLF I believe proves this point. As it has been pointed out HLF can turn out to be “the mother of all short squeezes”.

Selling short 20% of the shares of a company such as HLF with limited partners’ money that can be withdrawn, in my opinion, leaves much to be questioned.

Bill Ackman has recently stated “Carl Icahn is a great investor.” I thank him but unfortunately I cannot return the compliment.

Now, the thing about issuing press releases in which you trash a fellow billionaire and go back and forth claiming he was the one who was desperate to be friends with you and that you were the one who turned him down is that they serve a nice purpose in terms of coming off as the type of person who is so delightfully self-important that you issue press releases in which you trash a fellow billionaire and go back and forth claiming he was the one who was desperate to be friends with you and that you were the one who turned him down. But they take time to write and circulate and you don’t get an instantaneous response. For instance, writing in a press release that your adversary has been acting like “a crybaby in the school yard” is not the same as saying it to him as part of a live-broadcast that you’ve both called into.

That’s where CNBC comes in. While the network generally airs the kind of content that is best watched on mute or not at all, it really came through today. The above clip should be viewed in full, several times, but we’ve printed the best parts here. You’ll notice that they’re heavy on Icahn, light on Bill, which is probably a good thing if one is interested in coming off as a reasonable, sane person, though sadly does not help when it comes to getting play on our highlights reel.

“I was minding my own business in 2003 and I get a call from this Ackman guy and he’s like the crybaby in the school yard. I went to a tough school in Queens and they used to beat up the little Jewish boys and he was like these little Jewish boys crying saying the world was taking advantage of him. He was almost sobbing. And he’s in my office talking about this Hallwood deal and how I can help him. It’s like in the old song, I rue the day I ever met the guy.” Icahn

“He’s the quintessential example of if you want a friend, get a dog.” Icahn

“Carl thought this guy is road kill on the hedge fund highway, I’m never going to have to worry about this kid again.” Ackman

“I told Carl I’d go to the end of the earth to pay my investors and that’s what I did.” Ackman

“I don’t give a damn about what you want to know. I’m going to talk about what I want to talk about. If you want to take that position I’ll never go on CNBC. So you can say what the hell you want…I’ll talk about Herbalife when I god damn want to, not when you want me to. I’ll never go on a show with you again, that’s for damn sure.” (Icahn to host; this is arguably the point at which Icahn loses his mind and also the most amazing 10 seconds to ever transpire on CNBC.)

“When it comes to friends, he called me!!!” Icahn

“Let me say what the hell I want to say.” Icahn

“Ohhhhhhhh.” Throughout, from floor traders like they’re in the Jerry Springer audience on paternity results day.

“I wouldn’t invest with you if you were the last man on earth.” Icahn

“If you want to take…hello?”Icahn
“Yeah, we’re listening.” Host
“Well, if you’re listening, let me talk!” Icahn

“He talks about charity? That’s complete bull shit.” Icahn

“Let me remind you Carl that we’re on live TV.” Host

“Bull shit– Max Meyers said I can say whatever I want on the show.” Icahn

Where can this possibly go from here? We’d be happy to broker some sort of peace talks but it doesn’t seem like anyone is ready for that yet (and based on today’s performance, it seems like Carl has at least one more press release or YouTube address in him, in which he announces, “I’m inviting Bill Ackman to a one-on-one meeting with my lap, where my hand will get to know his behind”).

In the meantime, if there is any interest in mugs, hats, tee-shirts, and mouse pads with “I’ll talk about Herbalife when I god damn want to” printed on them, do let us know.

Ackman, Icahn Hurl Accusations, Insults [CNBC]
Icahn: Au, Contraire I Never Wanted To Be Ackman’s Friend [Deal Journal]
Related: Bill Ackman Thinks Carl Icahn Is A Great Investor, Bald-Faced Liar, Person Who Will Never Gain Admittance To The Friends Of Bill Ackman Society; Carl Icahn Still Thinks Bill Ackman Is A Bum, But That’s Just, Like, His Opinion

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96 Responses to “How Should Bill Ackman And Carl Icahn Settle This Thing Once And For All?”

  1. guest says:

    they both should jump off a cliff

  2. Concerned in Midtown says:

    Is Matt posting under Bess' name?

    • guest says:

      She reserves her 5,000 word posts for only the most special of subjects. See: hedge fund managers losing their minds on live TV, Zambonis, CG, Pigs who can play the piano, etc.

      • Matt Levine says:

        For the last time, derivatives with funny names is the hottest topic of 2013, just ask my mom or aunts!

        • CDO-Guy says:

          Hey Matt- did you see that Tropic CDO I filed notice of EOD today? YES! Love those CDO names!! (We used to call that shelf Tropic with a long 'o' as in 'entropic'.

  3. John Paulson says:


  4. guest says:

    "I'm never going on a show with you again that's for sure"


  5. Guest says:

    Pay per view cage match for charity?

  6. Guest says:

    In the rap community disputes end up in the street and bullets fly. In the jewish community they end up on CNBC.

  7. Guest says:

    Bess, do you need something from us? Do we need to make an effort to click more ads?

    I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I'll personally pitch in to:
    A. Fix the site
    B. Fire Jon Shazar (That's right Shazar, I will actually pay out of pocket to make you go away. That is how worthless I think you are)

  8. Edmond_Dantes says:

    Carl – we could use someone with your tact at the Department of Defense – any interest?


    Chuck Hagel

  9. SellingLow says:

    Carl Icahn is a lunatic. 100% certified lunatic.

  10. Alt_EST says:

    Team Ackman

  11. Savage Pampers says:

    I think a Walking Dead style fight with UBS traders chained to wooden posts and Ackman and Icahn fighting topless.

  12. VonSloneker says:


    – The Ghost of Johnny Cage

  13. Guest says:

    Fun as it was to watch, we really learned nothing from that showdown. On the left is a relatively forthright empty suit, on the right is a smart scumbag. But we already knew that yesterday.

    • PermaGuestII says:

      We learned that Carl Icahn is going to be the poster boy for Alzheimer's research in about 24 months.

  14. Highlight Reel says:

    This probably does take "the most amazing 10 minutes on CNBC" award – but it's only ever-so-slightly ahead of the scotch tasting / kilt guy.

  15. Coglioni says:

    I hope this ends like the Hamilton-Burr feud, except they both die.

  16. Scallywag says:

    A Dealbreaker food challenge? Involving Herbalife shakes? Imagine two furious billionaire nutters quaffing lo-cal, high protein, chalky tasting muck rapid fire whilst locked eye-to-eye, maybe even with wrists tied a-la Escape From New York (or was that a Michael Jackson video? These kinda things blur).

    First one to shart his pants or puke loses.

    • Guest says:

      Beat me to it… but yes, this is clearly the only way to settle it once and for all.

      An amusing forfeit for the loser would also be in order (other than the obvious humiliation).

  17. Guest says:

    Somebody needs a hug…

    – Michael Johnson

  18. CDO-Guy says:

    I'll securitize it!

  19. guest says:

    "If you want to take…hello?"–Icahn
    "Yeah, we're listening." –Host
    "Well, if you're listening, let me talk!"–Icahn

    How did you all miss that one?

  20. hmm says:

    Food challenge!!!

    Challenge: Whoever drinks the most Herbalife Formula 1 in an hour is declared the victor. Broadcast on CNBC.

    If Carl wins (and he will), liquidate Pershing Square
    Ackman wins, Icahn covers his short

  21. Guest says:

    CNBC needs to install metal detectors in their studio

  22. Short Shazar Quant says:

    Cage match – make Shazar try and ref it, laugh as an old man beats his ass.

  23. Pokemyeyeout says:

    Want justice. We want Thunderdome! You know the law: Two men enter, one man leaves

  24. LazyLightning says:

    Rated and Scored Trash Talk (from "How to trash talk – Wikihow")

    1 Identify the situation. If you are only joking around with your friends on the soccer field, meaningless jests about each other's mothers is usually the most effective way to go. On the opposite end, if you are currently engaged in a fist fight and honestly want to mentally crush your opponent, then use many vulgarities and compose a mean look on your face.

    Icahn: 1 (mean looks, one profanity… could do better but still wins)
    Ackman: 0 (as threatening as snoopy)

    2. Continue to talk about your unending skill in whatever activity you are currently engaged in. Even if these statements are not true, use them! False trash talk is equally effective as true trash talk (although sometimes you will have to back it up).

    Icahn: 1
    Ackman: 0 (Ackman way out of his league on trash talking)

    3. Repeat the steps as necessary. If you feel that your trash talking is ineffective, it's probably a good idea to stop. Many people have built an immunity to trash talking and therefore it doesn't affect them at all. If you run across this kind of person, your best call is to just shut your mouth and own them at whatever you are doing. If this happens it is much easier to trash talk that person next time you challenge them at this particular event.

    Icahn: 1
    Ackman: 0 (Ackman should cut losses)

    4. In the event that you lose, remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible. If many people hear you talking trash and then see you lose, no one will respect you. Also, your opponent could make fun of you. If you feel you are losing, stop trash talking. Continuing will only make your downfall even worse.

    Icahn: 1
    Ackman: 0 (Ackman f*cked)

    5. Challenge the opponent to another match, whether you win or not. You must be willing to put your money where your mouth is, which is an expression that means to do what you say you are going to to do, even when you are talking trash.

    Score: TBD

    Other Tips

    Be extremely loud. This triggers a pain receptor in the brain and therefor you could actually force your opponent to feel pain just by yelling at them. (Icahn wins)

    Using big words, that have a good meaning behind them, also work. Your opponent will not know what the words mean, therefore they become speech less. (This is Ackman's ONLY shot at this stage)

    Talking about things your opponent can't control is a great strategy. (Hint to Ackman: Try R-squared, convexity or some shit like that)

    Only dip out on a challenge if you know you can't win.

  25. Guest says:

    Best movie I've seen since I started working.

    – junior mistmaker

  26. ILoveLamp says:

    Icahn: Faster than you, fucking son of a… Saw you coming you fucking… shitheel.

    Ackman : I'm standing here; you make the move. You make the move. It's your move…

    Ichan: Don't try it you fuck.

    CNBC: We're on live TV here.

    Ackman: You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talking… you talking to me? Well I'm the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you're talking to? Oh yeah? OK.

  27. CNBC Production Team says:

    We hope you enjoyed our extended trailer for CNBC's next episode of American Greed

  28. Old Mother Hubbard says:

    Andrew Dice Clay sounds like he has aged terribly.

  29. O. Stone, UBS Filmer says:

    I should've done this instead of Wall Street 2.

  30. Dan Lube says:

    Watch out for our new show coming this fall: "The Real Billionaire Hedge Fund Whiners of Wall Street"

    -Bravo Producer

  31. gfgf says:

    Ok… Ok Carl… Ok… Ok Carl
    You think I want to invest with you?

  32. gfgf says:

    Never going on a show with you again, that’s for damn sure. Let’s start with what I want to say: Ackman is a liar

  33. hmjjbe says:

    I particularly liked….

    "I don't have an investment with Ackman…
    I wouldn't have an investment with Ackman if you paid me to do it…
    If Ackman payed me to do it "

    Also from Icahn…
    "As far as I'm concerned the guy, the guy is a major Loser"
    "I think HALF(?) could be the mother of all short squeezes. But that's not me saying it."

  34. inlovewithpmco says:

    Let me remind you we are on live television.

  35. Guestest says:

    Unrelated news bureau: Icahn has signed up to be a distributor….

  36. DMB says:

    This "debate" was thoroughly dominated by Ackman. I say "debate" in quotes because Icahn wasn't even debating, he was just calling Ackman names. Icahn did himself absolutely zero favors by going on air. Icahn proved he is a hot-headed, inarticulate, immature clown show. I don't see how anyone could watch the segment and not come to the same conclusion.

  37. Grizzly Bear says:

    There were really no winners here. With that said, the old man is worth $15B and is going to die soon, so he doesn't really give a shit about well, anything or anybody. Ackman has a few decades of life to live, young kids, etc. so his reputation is still fairly important to him. Therefore, slight nod to Icahn.

  38. theresa giudice says:

    The way to settle this thing is in a locked bank vault with soft lighting, two velvet couches, no bathroom breaks, pre-selected questions from fans, and ANDY COHEN hosting. Like any other real housewives reunion show. Whoever storms off set first loses.

  39. James Lipton says:

    Icahn was like Joe Pesci as Billy Batts from Goodfellas and Ackman was more like Shia LaBeouf in Wall Street (2).
    Ackman won the argument but Icahn scared the living shit out of me.

  40. David Tan says:

    Typical Ackman misdirection. The SEC investigation was for Gotham's "pump & dump" of Prepaid Legal Services, not MBIA.

  41. segoviacobain says:

    Team Ackman. I don't; agree with him all the time, but he's much more dependable for a short term ride.

  42. moscam says:

    In soccer, when two players have a tiff over something insignificant, they call it "handbags." Given that these are billionaires, would this argument be called "bank vaults?"

  43. Bud Fox says:

    "All warfare is based on deception." Sun Tzu. "If your enemy is superior, evade him." "If angry, irritate him." "If equally matched, fight. And if not, split. Re-evaluate."

  44. guest says:

    * FYI maury is the paternity guy, not j springer.

  45. mr. blonde says:

    Right from the Vince McMahon playbook – a classic lumberjack match where other HF managers surround the ring. Then loser leaves town. Imagine the pay-per view gate for that one…..

  46. Glenn says:

    Food Fight at the Pool Room

  47. Joel says:

    Ackman thinking about next vacation Icahn thinking about doctors appt.

  48. clams says:

    Sounds like they both need Hormone Therapy!

  49. FeeekkalllmmAttter says:

    Icahn should be on his porch in white undies with a shotgun screaming at young children walking home from school.

  50. Nathaniel says:

    I want that herbalife t-shirt you're talking about

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