Henry Winkler once said, “Assumptions are the termites of relationships.”1 In 2011, Bill Ackman assumed it was okay to talk to The New York Times about David Einhorn’s business and, like a homeowner forced to move out for three days while a pest control company sprays the place, he’s been forced to pay. Big time. Read more »
Bill Ackman And David Einhorn’s Love Blossomed On A Subway Platform But Now They Might Not Even Give Up Their Seat If The Other One Was PregnantBy Bess Levin
Bill Ackman Is Still Thinking About Filing An Appeal Against The SAT Board For Those 4 Questions He Got “Wrong” In 1984By Bess Levin
In 1984, when he was a junior at Horace Greeley High School, in affluent Chappaqua, New York, he wagered his father $2,000 that he would score a perfect 800 on the verbal section of the S.A.T. The gamble was everything Ackman had saved up from his Bar Mitzvah gift money and his allowance for doing household chores. “I was a little bit of a cocky kid,” he admits, with uncharacteristic understatement. Tall, athletic, handsome with cerulean eyes, he was the kind of hyper-ambitious kid other kids loved to hate and just the type to make a big wager with no margin for error. But on the night before the S.A.T., his father took pity on him and canceled the bet. “I would’ve lost it,” Ackman concedes. He got a 780 on the verbal and a 750 on the math. “One wrong on the verbal, three wrong on the math,” he muses. “I’m still convinced some of the questions were wrong.” [Vanity Fair]
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 »
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 »
I don’t really know what to tell you about Herbalife’s investor day presentation this morning. One thing that’s definitely true is that it was shorter than Bill Ackman’s anti-Herbalife presentation a few weeks ago, which the Herbalife team seemed inordinately proud of, since, like, the Ring Cycle is shorter than Ackman’s presentation. It was … guys, honestly, it was creepy, the word is creepy. Here is where Herbalife’s president, Des Walsh, made me particularly uncomfortable:
“It’s about a shake, a tea, an Aloe — and a hug. I know in this community, hugging is not something you do a lot. But the world needs more hugs. And they find them, along with good nutrition, in the nutrition clubs.”
That’s from DealBook’s live blog, which collects the highlights. (DealBook also has a good breakdown of the legal issues involved in “is Herbalife a scam?”) Ackman has already responded, arguing that Herbalife distorted his arguments and failed to address a lot of his points. This is true, though Herbalife definitely scored some “Ackman-is-distorting-our-business” points too; the whole thing seems likely to become a drawn-out contest of two sides talking past each other, at maximum length.1 Read more »
As many of you know, around these parts we are constantly debating the merits of various financial services employees’ food eating challenges. Historically, we’ve detracted points for allowing the participants far too much time to complete the task at hand (opening bell to close, might as well just make it limitless), an insufficient volume of food (a box of Munchkins, considered by many to be a snack), and lack of originality (vending machine challenges have been done). On the flip side, we’ve applauded creativity (an investment banker and 500 Starburst enter a room and there’s a webcam involved),* obscene amounts of food and enough sugar to cause hyperglycemia (244 oysters, a cupcake of death), and topicality (the delicacy that is the Sausage Pancake Bite: yes! Double Downs: double yes!).
Which brings us to this: the Herbalife Food Eating Challenge. New York Observer reporter Patrick Clark noticed that while the Herbalife story has been covered by many an angle so far (the blood-sucking pyramid scheme angle, the grandma angle, the Dan Loeb/UWS hedge fund manager on UWS hedge fund manager angle), the most important angle of all had yet to be explored: the actual ingesting of this stuff angle. Read more »