Bill Ackman sat in the hair and makeup chair at Bloomberg, waiting for his lieutenants to file in for a quick briefing before he went on the air. He knew what they were going to say and what they needed to hear him say before they'd be comfortable with him getting in front of the camera.
"Now what are you going to do when they ask you about Herbalife, Bill?"
"I'm going to speak about it in a measured tone. I'm going to manage expectations."
"And why are you going to do that?"
"Because even if it's true the company is a fraud, it doesn't mean it's going out of business tomorrow so we shouldn't tell people to expect it, even though... [mumbles something about how he knows it will]..."
"What was that?"
"Okay, and what are you not going to do?"
"I'm not going to give an exact date in the near future when the company is going to explode."
"And I'm not going to use the word 'explode'."
"And I'm not going to say 'If Herbalife doesn't go out of business in the next 365 days, I'll give up solid food and subsist only on their shakes and supplements for a calendar year."
The lieutenants looks at each other and nodded. They weren't 100% sure they could believe him but this was as close as confirmation as they were going to get. And, to be fair, since the incidentin July, he'd kept his promise. His promise to them, sure, but also his promise to himself. It's not like he liked doing this. It's not like he wanted to build up expectations re: the demise of Herbalife only to have them fail. But every time he got up on that stage, or in front of a camera, or on the phone with CNBC, something inside him took over and made him blurt out stuff like "Call the coroner, 'cause there's gonna be a murder tomorrow, of the corporate variety" or "Get all the shakes you can now because in a fortnight, they're gonna be gone" or "If Herbalife doesn't go out of business by next week, my name's not William A. Ackman."
He wanted to dial down the enthusiasm. He really did.
But we don't always get the things we want.
“I think this will be a 2015 event—the implosion of the company. I think worst case, early 2016. What gives me confidence is that the company has $1.150 billion of debt that comes due in early March 2016. They are not going to be able to refinance that credit facility. They do not have hard assets to provide security. The banks who provided that facility provided it before the government investigations and all the regulations.”
Bill Ackman: Herbalife Implosion Coming in 2015 [BloombergTV]