In person, the FT reports, he’s a sweetheart.
Mr Loeb’s latest target, William Ruprecht, chief executive of Sotheby’s, was this week given characteristic treatment. “We acknowledge that Sotheby’s is a luxury brand, but there appears to be some confusion – this does not entitle senior management to live a life of luxury at the expense of shareholders,” he wrote in a letter dispatched on Wednesday. Sotheby’s on Friday adopted a “poison pill” strategy aimed at warding off any unwanted takeover proposal. By Mr Loeb’s standards, his letter was remarkable for its restraint. Other missives have come larded with more vicious swipes and acid half-compliments. “I have known you personally for many years,” Mr Loeb wrote to Irik Sevin, chief executive of fuel distributor Star Gas Partners in 2005. “It is time for you to step down from your role as CEO and director so that you can do what you do best: retreat to your waterfront mansion in the Hamptons where you can play tennis and hobnob with your fellow socialites.” Another chief executive was branded Chief Value Destroyer. Directors who had inherited their board seats in one former family business were saluted as “members of the Lucky Sperm Club”.
If Mr Loeb’s words can seem poisonous written down, spoken, they are not, say those that work with him. He is invariably described positively – as one of finance’s most “thoughtful” and “inquisitive” investors, at times “intense” (he is “a fitness fanatic”) with a keen eye for making contrarian but brilliant wagers.