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:
Mr. Ackman spoke with Mr. Icahn's assistant on April 24 saying, "I am calling to forgive Carl," according to Mr. Ackman. Mr. Icahn, 78 years old, returned the call and told Mr. Ackman, 47, that "it is a blessing to forgive," Mr. Icahn said, "and I forgive you." The development suggests that the duo, who famously clashed on their views about nutrition company Herbalife Ltd., could team up on activist investments, where investors push for broad changes at companies or try to move prices with their arguments. Neither would name a target or timetable. In the future, Mr. Ackman said: "There is a much greater possibility that we are on the same side than the opposite." The two also "agreed to disagree" on Herbalife, with Mr. Icahn holding a huge bullish bet and Mr. Ackman holding a huge bearish bet. "Ackman and I both strongly believe in the need for corporate governance. So what is the point in fighting?" Mr. Icahn said...
Mr. Icahn said he told Mr. Ackman during the peacemaking mission last week: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Mr. Icahn said Mr. Ackman told him he respected him.
Will the duo put their newfound respect for each other to work, joining forces to create one giant activist manager the likes of which Wall Street has never seen? We'll just have to wait and see. On a related and final note, how can you not love the idea of this conversation:
Icahn assistant: "Carl Icahn's office."
Ackman: "Is he available?"
Icahn assistant: "I'm sorry, he's not at the moment, can I take a message?"
Ackman: "This is Bill Ackman, I am calling to forgive Carl."
Icahn assistant: "Does he have your nu--"
Icahn, Ackman Make Peace [WSJ]
Related: "William A. Ackman is a regular and one of many customers who rates an NR, never refuse. What the computer does not say (but the general manager, Rocky Cirino, knows) is that servers can never seat Mr. Ackman next to Carl C. Icahn, another big Wall Street name."