The fight between Bill Ackman and ADP has already yielded quite a fewbatshit moments, but none have been quite as galling as what ADP chief executive Carlos Rodriguez claims Ackman said to him during an early "conversation."
“He said: I know you don’t like the media, but I do and I’m really good at it,” Mr Rodriguez said. “And if this gets into a public battle, it’s going to be bad for you personally, it’s going to be bad for the company, but I’m fine with it because — and he said this — I’m told that I’m only second to Donald Trump in terms of number of clicks on the internet, and hence you will lose if there’s a public relations battle.”
Ok, let's parse this a bit.
First, since when is Bill Ackman "really good at media"? We are the media (and at times this whole blog looks like a Bill Ackman subreddit) but even we spend most of our energy making fun of the guy. And while there might have been a time when Ackman could go out and use the media to his own advantage, that time has passed. The New Yorker didn't exactly make him look like a world-beater a few months back, and many of his recent public appearances have gone...poorly. Ackman threatening to use his media prowess against you is like Michael Jordan warning some kid that he's going to dunk in his face; it's not that scary these days.
Second, the whole "bad for you personally/bad for the company" feels like a case of Ackman emulating the behavior of his own bully to feel empowered. As hard as Bill tries to sound like him, he will never be Carl Icahn. Threats are not The Ack-Man's strong suit, so he should stick to throwing out numbers and metaphors at such a fast pace that his listener feels obliged to agree with whatever he is saying lest they appear stupid. That is Ackman's true superpower.
And third, what even the fuck is Bill Ackman talking about?
"I’m told that I’m only second to Donald Trump in terms of number of clicks on the internet"
For a guy who loves logic and data and blah, blah, blah, this is inexcusable horseshit. If he said it, this quote doesn't so much make Ackman look desperate for leverage with ADP as it makes him look utterly fucking unhinged. Again, we are borderline obsessed with Bill Ackman, and even we can name about 100 people whose names "get clicked" on less than Donald Trump and more than Bill Ackman.
To be clear, this is simply Rodriguez's word against Bill Ackman's, but in this post-Herbalife, post-Valeant, queso-inflected reality, it is not too difficult to believe that Ackman is acting a little nutty. Hell, after 2016 we're shocked that Bill isn't running into ADP's boardroom in rags with his tie around his forehead yelling "YOU CAN'T STOP ME, I'M ALREADY DEAD INSIDE!!!"
But if this is true, we just want him to cut this out. You are still a smart and special man, Bill Ackman, and we will always care about you, but when you tell another executive that you are mainstream famous and good at media, you don't only insult yourself, you insult us, and why would you want to go and do that?