If it ever looks like I’m trying to tell you what Carl Icahn is up to with Herbalife, don’t listen to me. I have no idea. How could you? Icahn now owns ~13% of Herbalife’s stock with a ~$36 basis, and he is somewhat constrained from selling it in the next six months by short-swing profit rules. So he can’t sell. He can buy, of course. But after today he can’t buy more than 25%:
Herbalife today announced that it has reached an agreement with Carl C. Icahn …. As part of the agreement, Herbalife will increase the size of its Board of Directors from nine to eleven members immediately before the 2013 Annual General Meeting of Shareholders [and] will nominate two individuals to the Company’s Board of Directors, designated by the Icahn Parties and approved by the Company’s Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Icahn Parties have agreed to, among other things, abide by certain standstill provisions and vote their shares in support of all of the Board’s director nominees. The Icahn Parties have the right to increase the size of their ownership position in Herbalife up to 25% of the outstanding common stock.
The standstill is for real; Icahn filed the agreement with his 13D/A and it’s an amusingly strong-form standstill that prohibits him from buying more than 25% of the stock, launching a tender offer, proposing a merger, ” encourag[ing] or facilitat[ing]” anyone else doing the same, or, my favorite, “request[ing] that the Company or any Representative of the Company, directly or indirectly, amend or waive any provision of this [standstill] (including this clause (g) [the one that says he can't ask]).” He can’t even ask to be allowed to ask to buy Herbalife!1 Read more »
Bloomberg: Do you think he’s made a mistake on this one? Icahn: Well, if you look at his record lately, he has made a few very big mistakes. I am not going to say just this one. I am not here to question Ackman. I do not want to get pulled into that again…I look at it as a great opportunity. Ironically, I thank him for giving it to me. Does not mean I like him…I do not respect him. I do not like him. [BloombergTV, earlier]
Earlier today it was noted that, to the surprise of many, Bill Ackman and Carl Icahn had refrained from asking questions or dialing in and making sudden outbursts during this morning’s conference call to discuss Herbalife’s fourth quarter earnings. Obviously this came as a shock on account of Ackman and Icahn taking many opportunities in the past to share their feelings re: the company and each other. And while it’s true both men personally held their tongue’s today, according to Pershing Square, one of its analysts had planned to ask questions on Bill’s and the hedge fund’s behalf but was shot down. Read more »
“Look, I’m in this to make money. That’s what I do. The fact that it might hurt Ackman, I’m not going to run and cry and do penance. You might like to say that it’s the strawberry on top for me, that’s up to you.” [Barron's, related, earlier]
Yesterday Carl Icahn filed a 13D disclosing a ~13% synthetic stake in Herbalife. There are three possible reasons that Carl Icahn might want to own half a billion dollars worth of Herbalife stock:
- as a value investment in a company with strong cash flows and a beaten-up stock price,
- as a toehold in preparation for launching a tender offer to take the company private, or
- to fuck with Bill Ackman.
If you watched Icahn and Ackman square off on CNBC, or read the transcript, or witnessed some sort of dramatic recreation of it, I think you’ll join me in assuming it’s sheer fuck-with-ery. “Cry, Jewish boy, cry!,” he probably said as he signed the 13D. But who knows? He’s up $80+ million as of this morning, so two birds with one stone.
A curiosity of this position is that it’s mostly synthetic: Icahn owns about 2.5 million actual shares and about 11.5 million call options. Like so:
As we’ve discussed before, this is Icahn’s standard M.O., and it’s not because his dealers are dummies who will sell him levered upside on a stock that he can move with just a lift of his magnificent eyebrows. Read more »
Carl Icahn isn’t letting his historic, televised, verbal beat-down of Bill Ackman distract him from the thing that, unlike this Ackman guy, he likes: namely, harassing companies to do his bidding. Read more »
If you have an opinion on whether Carl Icahn or Bill Ackman got the better of today’s amazing CNBC shoutfest over Herbalife, you have a number of options for expressing it. We’ve had like four posts so, y’know, comment away, but if you want something more formal both CNBC and Business Insider have polls you can vote on. Also if you listen to CNBC’s video you can hear in the background a bunch of men who, when not oohing and ahhing over cursing on television, spend their days running around pretending to trade stocks. Don’t be fooled, though: you can actually trade stocks, even Herbalife’s. If Icahn-Ackmania changed your view of Ackman’s short thesis on Herbalife, feel free to express that changed view with money.
As of 4pm-ish, BI and CNBC both give Ackman the win. Mr. Market goes the other way, though without overwhelming enthusiasm.1
This makes sense – as a former high school debate judge I’d score this one for Ackman too. On style alone: Icahn apparently did his interview in a zen garden surrounded by a team of silent and efficient researchers; Icahn prepped by going to a Queens schoolyard and getting in fights.
But on substance, too. Icahn’s main claim, that shorting a company and then saying mean things about it is “manipulation” or otherwise bad form, is sort of crazy; Ackman’s zen researchers helped him point out that Icahn did just that at Ira Sohn in 2003. More important, though: how does Icahn’s “you can be short, but you can’t tell anyone” thesis – as he says, “If you’re short, you go short and hey, if it goes down you make money” – hold up when applied to long investing? Read more »
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!” Read more »
In response to Icahn telling Bloomberg he neither likes nor respects the Pershing Square founder, Bill Ackman got a couple important points of his chest last night, the first being that the feeling’s mutual, the second just a little bit of Wall Street trivia: you can tell Carl Icahn is lying if his lips are moving. Read more »
There are many people in the universe who are fans of hedge fund manager Bill Ackman. They like his style. His charm. The way he makes them feel. The fact that he’s not afraid to show his emotions or give them an honest opinion about their new dress or say “You know what? Those highlights really aren’t working for you.” Carl Icahn, however, is not one of those people. Save for a fleeting moment of supposed amicability following “a lengthy, boozy dinner,” Icahn has viewed Ackman as a punk for nearly a decade; an untrustworthy little jerk who Ichan’s friends supposedly told him not to do business with. (The feeling being more than a little mutual; as Ackman has put it, “The guy is a shakedown artist. His word is worthless.”) Anyway, in case anyone was wondering if the investors had put an end to their feud with another long, booze-filled meal, wonder no longer. Read more »