martinis

Last Thursday, in an interview with CNBC, Carl Icahn said something so shocking that the only logical explanation for the words passing his lips was that he’d been drinking (which he had). With cameras rolling, Icahn told David Faber, of fellow hedge fund manager Bill Ackman: “We have our differences, but I never said he’s not a smart guy. I think the concept of this [bid with Valeant to buy Allergan] is good. I hope it works out better for him than Herbalife did, and I think it will…There’s nothing wrong with making a bid for a company and using someone else’s funds.” That Icahn had anything remotely nice, much less complimentary, to say about Ackman was so surprising because since 2005, following a disagreement over an investment, the men have shared feelings for one another that can be summed up thusly: they hate each other. You know this, I know this, the maître d’ at Marea knows this. And yet there Icahn was, saying nice things about a guy who in the past he’s called, via press release, a shitty investor for whom he has no respect; who he’s described, on CNBC, as “the crybaby in the school yard“; and who he’s sworn, in at least one interview, that he’d never invest with again. (For his part, Ackman has called Icahn a liar who “takes advantage of little people,” whose offer of friendship he didn’t have to think twice about before turning down.)

What made Carl change his tune? Was it more than just the booze? For now, that remains unclear. What is clear is that someone was watching and was touched by the comments, martini-fueled or not. Because less than 48 hours later, this happened: Read more »


Last night, in an interview with CNBC, Carl Icahn had this to say about fellow hedge fund manager Bill Ackman and his recent bid with drugmaker Valiant Pharmaceuticals for Botox maker Allergan:

“We have our differences, but I never said he’s not a smart guy. I think the concept of this is good. I hope it works out better for him than Herbalife did, and I think it will…There’s nothing wrong with making a bid for a company and using someone else’s funds.”

Those of you who’ve kept up with Icahn and Ackman’s relationship know that Icahn saying he never said Ackman’s “not a smart guy” represents a complete 180 from his comments about the Pershing Square manager in the past. Those include but are not limited to:

  • To the New York Times: “How many times have judges been wrong? How many people have gone to the death chamber because they’re wrong? Ackman is dead wrong.”
  • On BloombergTV: “…it’s no secret I don’t like Ackman”
  • Also on BloombergTV: “I have no respect for him and I don’t like him and that’s not a secret.”
  • In the same interview on BloombergTV: “I dislike the guy, I don’t respect him, I’ve done business with him and he wasn’t forthright…that’s my opinion.”
  • Via press release: “To get the record straight, I never asked Ackman to be my friend.”
  • In the same press release: “Bill Ackman has recently stated ‘Carl Icahn is a great investor.’ I thank him but unfortunately I cannot return the compliment.”
  • On CNBC: “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.”
  • In the same interview on CNBC: “He’s the quintessential example of if you want a friend, get a dog.”
  • CNBC: “I wouldn’t invest with [Ackman] if [he] were the last man on earth.”

So to hear Icahn not only describe Ackman as not not smart but to compliment his “concept” was more than a little bit surprising. But why the about face? It’s possible it had something to do what happens at 2:58 here: Read more »

The covers story for this month’s Bloomberg Markets magazine is a big piece on Jamie Dimon and how “no bank has more to lose with the new financial service rules than JPMorgan,” as well as what bad WaMu loans could mean for the bank. And while Dimon is no rosy-eyed optimist and seems to have the press’s number (telling people in 2009, “I know exactly what the headline will say when I make a mistake: ‘Dimon Loses Luster,’” according to two people who heard the comments), there’s a sense that throughout everything he’s done in the past and will do in the future, he knows things will be okay. That’s because, one, JD is hard worker who has the courage of his convictions and two, he’s got a case of gin that says so.

Dimon doesn’t want to hear excuses for his executives’ failures. He has a sign in his office in big bold type that reads “No Whiners.” “It’s a looking-forward mentality: Don’t whine about it; just get it done,” says Ron Seiffert, whom Dimon hired from Huntington Bancshares Inc. to run Bank One’s small-business lending in 2002. Seiffert says Dimon displayed his philosophy when United Airlines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2002, after being weakened by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Bank One was one of the airline’s biggest creditors. Instead of scaling back his exposure, Dimon decided to extend even more credit to the airline.

It was a risky bet that eventually paid off, Seiffert says. “He said: ‘We made this decision. If we made the wrong decision, I’ll go home, I’ll have a couple of martinis, I’ll wake up the next day and we’ll come back,’” Seiffert says.

And hey, hey, hey– the booze isn’t just reserved for JD. Read more »

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CNBC’s Charlie Gasparino ringside at Trader Monthly‘s fight night. [PageSixMag]
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