So far, the 2017 SALT Conference has been less a celebration of the hedge fund renaissance under President Trump, and more a talk-therapy session for sad sacks. The whole glittery shindig opened on that note with founder and unemployed person Anthony Scaramucci, who no longer runs the fund of hedge funds that gives the get-together its name nor has the White House post he was expecting.
“I didn’t expect to be here, to be honest,” he said on Wednesday at the opening of the conference. “I was offered a job by the administration. The job didn’t materialize” he added.
The next member of the brave-face brigade to come the stage was Bill Ackman, who’s had a roughgo of it lately, too. But Ackman is constitutionally incapable of staying down in the dumps too long. Consider the well-publicized $4 billion bath he took on Valeant Pharmaceuticals when he dumped his entire stake—which had depreciated in value by 94%—back in March. You might see a fatal bit of hubris, a toxic combination of arrogance and incompetence, the kind of thing that might make a person wonder if he was cut out for this hedge fund game. Not Bill. Bill sees not only a learning experience, but also one of the highlights of his life, a turning point on the road to greater glories.
Ackman said that selling the Valeant stake “was one of the best things we did.”
The decision to pull off the bandage “got the organization totally focused on what is core to us,” Ackman said. Pershing subsequently developed two new ideas, one of which he said will “probably” be announced in a couple of months and another that he is “close to pulling the trigger on….”
“I made a big mistake but the core fundamentals that drove our success are still the same…I’ve got something to prove,” he said.
And not just him: Lots of people have something to prove, like everyone else in his dying industry. And also the president who won’t get Anthony Scaramucci off the dole.
“The hedge fund industry is a little bit like the mall industry,” Ackman said, adding that funds can’t fee 20 percent of profits when they’re only gaining 5 to 8 percent….
Elsewhere, despite his own slew of screw-ups, Ackman had a few pieces of advice for President Donald Trump.
Although he was bullish on Trump’s pro-business stance, Ackman said Trump has “been disappointing so far.”
“He needs a win,” Ackman said, adding that Trump should focus on infrastructure instead of healthcare.
“The thing I don’t understand – every president seems to start with healthcare, and it destroys everything,” Ackman said.
Bill Ackman has ‘something to prove’ after Valeant mistake [MarketWatch]
Ackman: 2-and-20 doesn’t work anymore for hedge funds [N.Y. Post]
Anthony Scaramucci, Hedge Fund Showman, Finds Himself in Limbo [DealBook]