Whoever said there’s no such thing as bad publicity was unfamiliar with the career of one William Albert Ackman. Sure, that’s because P.T. Barnum died 75 years before Ackman was born, but also because it’s unclear whether the man has had anything but bad publicity. What is clear is that said unending Niagara of bad publicity has not done him any good, in spite of the occasional threat to use his ability to generate it to hurt others, as well.
It also might be the kind of thing that makes Ackman a bit reticent about picking up the newspaper or turning on CNBC. But Ackman is currently on a crusade, widely portrayed in the media as both idiotic and Quixotic, to take one-third of Automatic Data Processing’s board seats. To counter this narrative, Bill’s got to press the flesh a little, at least remotely, making himself accessible to the people who will decide whether or not he gets one board seat, or three, or more likely, zero.
For one hour, the Wall Street hedge fund manager spoke in a live webinar, fielding questions from Main Street investors about ADP’s culture, the company’s earnings potential and what expertise he would bring, all while trying to soften his image of an impatient investor who likes to fire people….
On the webinar, Ackman acknowledged mistakes like his bet on Valeant Pharmaceuticals Inc, on which he took a more than $3 billion loss when he finally sold his stake. But he spent more time detailing achievements at Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd, Zoetis Inc and Air Products & Chemicals Inc, and laid out the amount of money he and the two other board candidates have riding on ADP’s future success.
But while outlining his plans for what Ackman emphasized was “your company” and demonstrating how, exactly, to vote for Pershing Square’s nominees if one were persuaded and so inclined, Bill just couldn’t help himself and got a little carried away.
“The decision to vote your shares here is as important as the decision to vote for the President of the United States or vote for a senator or congressman to represent you,” Ackman said on a webcast Tuesday evening.
Really, Bill? Even if he is trying to shield himself from the slings and arrows of outrageous reporters, we know some things are filtering in. Like, you know, the thermonuclear war the President of the United States seems intent on starting. So perhaps it’s a bit hyperbolic to suggest that giving a billionaire hedge fund manager 30% of the seats on a corporate board of directors is “as important” as deciding whether or not to vote against making a sociopath President of the United States, even if Ackman has made peace with that sociopath himself.