Bill Ackman had plenty of chances to dump Valeant. He could have walked away without a share back in early 2015 after his Valeant-Allergan merger ploy failed. He could have called it quits when the company admitted to improper conduct and jettisoned Michael Pearson, the executive whose parsimony and shared love of Chipotle burritos helped convince Ackman to pair up with the drugmaker. He could have jumped ship when the analyst who first introduced Ackman to Valeant took his leave from Pershing Square. He could have bolted after sustaining losses of 50 percent, 75 percent, 90 percent. Etc.
But for two years, through a little thick and lots of thin, much sickness and barely any health, Ackman stood by Valeant, defending his investment before the ravenous Elizabeth Warren and sitting patiently on the company's board as it tried to figure out what, exactly, it was. He even missed his beloved Ira Sohn conference to put out brushfires at big pharma's biggest clusterfuck.
Now, just as abruptly as it all began, the dream is over:
But don't expect any bitter recriminations in the wake of the torrid affair:
The firm said, "At its current market value, the Valeant position represented 1.5% to 3% of the various Pershing Square funds; however, the investment required a disproportionately large amount of time and resources."
Pershing Square said CEO Joe Papa and his team "have done an excellent job refocusing and setting a new course for the company" and wished the company well.
The statement did not make clear what amount of time and resources is proportionate to a roughly $3 billion loss, but presumably the answer is more than Ackman has, given his busy schedule granting lengthy interviews about his Herbalife short (relationship status: somehow not dead). As you'll recall, Ackman long held that Valeant's problems were just about lousy PR, an issue he knows all too well.
Pershing Square investors may happy to see the albatross off Ackman's back, but there's a silver lining: It was all just a learning experience. See if you can spot the lesson: