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  • 17 Dec 2014 at 3:35 PM

Bill Ackman Just Can’t Help Himself

ackmanBill Ackman sat in the hair and makeup chair at Bloomberg, waiting for his lieutenants to file in for a quick briefing before he went on the air. He knew what they were going to say and what they needed to hear him say before they’d be comfortable with him getting in front of the camera.

“Now what are you going to do when they ask you about Herbalife, Bill?”

“I’m going to speak about it in a measured tone. I’m going to manage expectations.”

“And why are you going to do that?”

“Because even if it’s true the company is a fraud, it doesn’t mean it’s going out of business tomorrow so we shouldn’t tell people to expect it, even though… [mumbles something about how he knows it will]…”

“What was that?”

“Nothing.”

“Okay, and what are you not going to do?”

“I’m not going to give an exact date in the near future when the company is going to explode.”

“And?”

“And I’m not going to use the word ‘explode’.”

“And?”

“And I’m not going to say ‘If Herbalife doesn’t go out of business in the next 365 days, I’ll give up solid food and subsist only on their shakes and supplements for a calendar year.”

The lieutenants looks at each other and nodded. They weren’t 100% sure they could believe him but this was as close as confirmation as they were going to get. And, to be fair, since the incident in July, he’d kept his promise. His promise to them, sure, but also his promise to himself. It’s not like he liked doing this. It’s not like he wanted to build up expectations re: the demise of Herbalife only to have them fail. But every time he got up on that stage, or in front of a camera, or on the phone with CNBC, something inside him took over and made him blurt out stuff like “Call the coroner, ’cause there’s gonna be a murder tomorrow, of the corporate variety” or “Get all the shakes you can now because in a fortnight, they’re gonna be gone” or “If Herbalife doesn’t go out of business by next week, my name’s not William A. Ackman.”

He wanted to dial down the enthusiasm. He really did. Read more »

Eli-face-7Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you, if you quit your Wall Street gig and make some shrewd calls re: Eli Manning and Marquess Wilson. Read more »

Eat shit, asshole.The not-exactly-wireless-internet company continues to excel at the only business it’s ever really been in, which is losing money; it’s set $1.8 billion on fire since it went into bankruptcy not quite two years ago, to cover interest payments and to keep the pipes from freezing.

Well, Phil Falcone (‘s investors) dumped some $2.9 billion into the thing, and he seems pretty determined that not a single dollar of that amount will be left when the desiccated hull of LightSquared winds up in Charlie Ergen’s daughter’s college fund. Read more »

  • 17 Dec 2014 at 12:49 PM

Sage Kelly Bids Jefferies Adieu

sage kellyAfter taking a timeout earlier this year to deal with matters related to coke, shrooms, Molly, wife-swapping, toilets, ketamine, more coke, and, in a twist, being named father of the year, Sage Kelly has decided to make this thing permeant. Read more »

Cheer up! It could have been worse.To mark the sixth anniversary of Bernie Madoff’s perp walk, five of his closest aides got the worst Christmas presents of their lives: between two-and-a-half and 10 years in prison for dummying up statements, looking the other way, and playing catch with a bunch of files that the SEC wanted to have a look at.

The scoreboard shows Madoff ops. chief Daniel Bonventre going up the river for a decade for his stellar 40-year career, vertically-challenged former secretary Annette Bongiorno for six and computer programmers and diamond collectors George Perez and Jerome O’Hara for two-and-a-half each. So the last of the five, portfolio manager Joann Crupi, probably had a pretty good idea of what was coming to her yesterday, and what came was six years in the pokey. Read more »

Here to help.And it’s going to do it the hard way: Not by buying someone else’s ETF platform, both because that wouldn’t really be a GOLDMAN SACH ETF platform and because there’s no sport in it, but by doing it all themselves. Maybe with a little help from on high. Read more »

  • 17 Dec 2014 at 9:45 AM

Bonus Watch ’14: Jefferies

jefferiesHopefully Jefferies employees enjoyed last year’s bonuses because there’s reportedly a lot more where that came from. Read more »

Opening Bell: 12.17.14

Dov CharneyPlunging Ruble Unsettles Russians, Poses Test for Putin (WSJ)
As Russian President Vladimir Putin has ratcheted up the conflict with the West for most of the year, the economic fallout on ordinary Russians has been limited. Suddenly, though, the plunging ruble is reawakening fears of rising prices and the kind of financial crisis Mr. Putin has sought to put behind his country. As the ruble hit a record low, falling as much as 20% against the dollar Tuesday, Moscow residents rushed to buy electronics and other big-ticket items and drained rubles from ATMs to swap them for dollars and euros—signaling a new feeling of vulnerability among Russians and a fresh challenge to their leader. From St. Petersburg to Siberia, money changers ran out of foreign currency and were raising exchange rates. Sberbank , Russia’s state savings bank, and Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest private lender, said they were experiencing a rush for dollars and euros.

A Pimco Emerging-Market Fund Hit by Russian-Debt Bet (WSJ)
The $3.3 billion Pimco Emerging Markets Bond Fund has lost 9% this month, according to Morningstar Inc., fueled by the decline in oil prices and the gathering effect on Russian economic output of U.S. sanctions.

American Apparel Executives Call for Charney’s Return (Bloomberg)
Paula Schneider, American Apparel Inc. (APP)’s incoming chief executive officer, hasn’t even started work yet and she’s already facing a group of disgruntled managers. More than 30 executives asked the board to reconsider their decision to fire former CEO and company founder Dov Charney, according to a letter obtained by Bloomberg News. Charney should be a part of the retailer’s future by helping the next CEO improve the chain because he is what “makes this thing tick,” the managers said. Charney’s loyalists bring an additional headache to a new CEO already coping with red ink and sluggish sales. The chain has racked up more than $300 million in net losses since 2010, forcing it to raise capital to make ends meet — most recently in July. Schneider also has to contend with image problems at a company that’s been criticized for its racy advertising and sexually charged culture.

Billionaires who made and lost the most in 2014 (CNBC)
In a volatile year for the world’s rich, Jack Ma saw his fortune surge to $29.2 billion from just over $10 billion, according to Wealth-X. That 175 percent increase made him the biggest financial gainer of the year for billionaires, Wealth-X said. Warren Buffett came in second place, with a gain of $13.5 billion in 2014, a 23 percent increase from last year, to push his fortune to US$72.6 billion. Bill Gates saw his net worth grow by US$10.5 billion in 2014 to reach US$83.1 billion. The biggest loser, according to Wealth-X, was Russian energy tycoon Leonid Mikhelson, whose fortune shrank to $10 billion from $17 billion.

“I spend 11,000 a year on takeout” (NYP)
A few months ago, Kris Ruby lost her credit card and briefly had to borrow her dad’s while waiting for the replacement. When her dad saw the bill, it wasn’t clothes, cabs or nightclub charges that gave him a fright — it was sushi. “Dad was like, ‘What are all these charges for Seamless?’ ” Ruby, 27, recalls. She used his card for just one week, but in that amount of time she racked up about $225 worth of sushi, superfood salads and other takeout to her Wall Street home. He promptly banned her from using his card on any future delivery purchases. “I felt like it was my guilty little pleasure and secret,” Ruby says. “I couldn’t wait to put my own card back on it so no one could see my meals.” Ordering through Seamless’ handy delivery app almost every night chomps $900 a month off Ruby’s salary as president of her own p.r. and social media agency — almost $11,000 a year, enough for 98 unlimited MetroCards or 4,720 pizza slices. “Oh, my God, this is shocking,” she says, when realizing just how much she spends. “Sometimes I look at this and I’m like, ‘I need to stop this with Seamless.’ ” Read more »