Back in December, CNBC anchor Scott Wapner officiated an interview with hedge fund managers Carl Icahn and Bill Ackman, on the topic of Herbalife. In addition to describing Ackman, Icahn’s sworn enemy, as a “crying Jewish boy” not unlike the ones Icahn used to “beat up” in the schoolyards of Queens, going on record to say that he wouldn’t invest with Ackman if the Pershing Square manager was “the last man on earth,” and noting that he “rued the day” he met Ackman (referred throughout the interview by Icahn as “this Ackman guy”), Carl also had some choice exchanges with Wapner. They included:
- Icahn: “If you want to take…hello?” Wapner: “Yeah, we’re listening.” Ichan: “Well, if you’re listening, let me talk!”
- Ichan: “I want to say what I want to say. And I’m not going to talk about my Herbalife position because you want to bully me.” Wapner: “I’m not bullying you. I’m asking the question everybody wants to know, Carl that’s all. But you can make your statement.” Icahn: “I’m going to talk about what I god damn want to talk about.” Wapner: “Okay.” Icahn: “If you want to take that position I will never go on CNBC. You can say what the hell you want.” Wapner: “Okay.” Icahn: “But I’m going to tell you, I’m going to talk about what Ackman just said about me, not about Herbalife. And I’ll talk about Herbalife when I god damn want to, not when you ask me.”
- Wapner: “Guys, we are going to end it there. Bill, so much appreciate you coming on today. Carl, I hope you’ll come back. That’s all I can say. It was a good conversation and it wasn’t anybody’s –” Icahn: “I don’t hear you tell me that you appreciated me coming on.”
Which is why viewers might have been surprised to hear Carl’s voice once again grace the CNBC airwaves today, in a call-in with Wapner during the Fast Money “Half-Time” report, but were probably not surprised to hear him spend a good portion of the interview telling Wapner to get off his lawn. Read more »
It’s useful to be reminded every now and then that shareholders don’t really “own” corporations and they certainly don’t run them. Whatever you think of Carl Icahn’s self-funded, mildly loony plan to do a leveraged-recap-via-tender-offer of Dell, his basic argument, that Dell shareholders should be able to vote to (1) do that, (2) sell the company to its founder, or (3) none of the above, in some straightforward up-or-down way, had a certain real appeal. I mean, it’s their company, let them decide to sell 100% of it for $13.88ish or 80% of it for $14ish or 0% of it for … I see $13.82ish1 … or some intermediate pair of numbers. But, nope: Read more »
- buy stock in company,
- be annoying,
- sell stock back to company at higher price.
This model had many delights of which perhaps the greatest was that you couldn’t really, like, do damage to your reputation. The more annoying you are: the more the company wants to get rid of you! So the more they’ll pay. And since you’d really only get into this business if you had some natural predisposition to annoyingness, it was a nice way for some people to make a living doing what they loved. Sadly it sort of petered out after the 1980s, though you still see variants on it occasionally.
It’s fun to contrast Bill Ackman’s 2,000-word letter to the J.C. Penney board referencing his previous “several-thousand-word email to the board outlining my concerns about our current trajectory” with Carl Icahn’s 280 characters about Apple. Read more »
There are puzzling reports that Bill Ackman has been complaining to the SEC about George Soros’s investment in Herbalife, claiming that “Soros’ firm broke insider-trading rules by tipping hedge funds about its purchases” at “idea meetings.” You might remember Bill Ackman as the man who called a big press conference to tell everyone that he was short Herbalife and they should join him. There was PowerPoint! It was like eight hours long. I suppose some people traded on it though I also suppose they regret it.
So what’s his problem? I do not understand this at all. The allegation of insider trading is particularly weird; as far as I know no one has any obligation to keep their share ownership – or plans to buy more shares – secret. A cynic might say that the business of fundamental equity fund management consists mostly of telling people about your positions, which is why CNBC exists. It’s also why Ackman’s Herbalife drama exists; one irony is that if he had not called that press conference he probably would never have baited Carl Icahn into becoming Herbalife’s biggest proponent. Should have kept it to an idea meeting! Read more »