The Ira Sohn Conference is different things to different people. For young hedge-fund strivers, it's high-priced networking. For the old guard, it's a good show for a good cause. And for the hedge-fund presenters, the annual confab serves as a sort of debutante's ball for new investment theses, a highly orchestrated and ritualized setting in which to trot out your most darling idea, primped and permed for the admiring gaze of the investing public.
On Monday, repeat attendee Bill Ackman threw all that tradition out the window. In lieu of introducing the public to his next big idea, Ackman dragged one of his oldest investments out of the basement, threw a shiny new bow on top and presented it as if it were fresh goods. At Sohn 2017, Bill Ackman pimped Howard Hughes Corporation, a position he has held since its 2010 split from General Growth Properties.
Granted, the last time Ackman held a coming-out party at Sohn it left quite a hangover. And HHC hasn't been a terrible bet! Since he introduced his GGP thesis at Sohn in 2010, that stock has risen more than 10,000 percent, while its offshoot HHC has more than tripled.
Still, why did Billy A see fit to spit-shine his old HHC position and pawn it off as novel at an event that people pay $5,000 to attend? “We never talked publicly about the company,” Ackman explained. “The question is why are we talking about it now.” His answer: It's a great time to invest in Howard Hughes Company!
HHC is “SimCity but for real,” Ackman enthused as he launched into a presentation that seemed pay homage to the world of timeshare sales. The audience shifted and grumbled as Ackman clicked through pretty pictures of the South Street Seaport in Manhattan and The Woodlands planned community outside of Houston.
Nevertheless, the Ackman Effect remains as strong as ever: