Ackman in 2016
William Albert Ackman
May 11, 1966
|Residence||New York City, New York, U.S.|
|Alma mater||Harvard University|
|Occupation||Investor, hedge fund manager, and philanthropist|
|Known for||Founder and Chief Executive, Pershing Square Capital Management|
|Net worth||US$1.1 billion (June 2019)|
(m. 1994; div. 2018)
Neri Oxman (m. 2019)
William Albert Ackman (born May 11, 1966) is an American investor, hedge fund manager, and philanthropist. He is the founder and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, a hedge fund management company. Ackman is considered by some to be a contrarian investor but considers himself an activist investor.
Research published at the University of Oxford characterizes Ackman's activities with Canadian Pacific Railway as paradigmatic of "engaged activism", which is longer-term in nature with correlated benefits to the real economy, as distinct from shorter-term "financial activism".
Ackman's investing style has been praised and criticized by U.S. government officials, heads of other hedge funds, various retail investors, and the general public. His most notable market plays include shorting MBIA's bonds during the 2008 financial crisis, his proxy battle with Canadian Pacific Railway, and his stakes in the Target Corporation, Valeant Pharmaceuticals, and Chipotle Mexican Grill. From 2012 to 2018, Ackman held a US$1 billion short against the nutrition company Herbalife, a company he has claimed is a pyramid scheme designed as a multi-level marketing firm. His efforts were documented in the documentary film Betting on Zero.
Early life and education
Ackman was raised in Chappaqua, New York, the son of Ronnie I. (née Posner) and Lawrence David Ackman, the chairman of a New York real estate financing firm, Ackman-Ziff Real Estate Group. His family is Jewish.
In 1988, he received a bachelor of arts degree magna cum laude in history from Harvard College. His thesis was "Scaling the Ivy Wall: the Jewish and Asian American Experience in Harvard Admissions." In 1992, he received an MBA from Harvard Business School.
In 1992, Ackman founded the investment firm Gotham Partners with fellow Harvard graduate David P. Berkowitz. The firm made small investments in public companies. In 1995, Ackman partnered with the insurance and real estate firm Leucadia National to bid for Rockefeller Center. Although they did not win the deal, the bid caused increased interest in Gotham from investors, which led to $500 million in assets by 1998. By 2002, Gotham had become entrenched in litigation with various outside shareholders who also owned an interest in the companies in which Gotham invested.
Despite an ongoing probe of his trading by New York State and federal authorities, in 2002 Ackman began research challenging MBIA's AAA rating. He was charged fees for copying 725,000 pages of statements regarding the financial services company in his law firm's compliance with a subpoena. Ackman called for a division between MBIA's bond insurers' structured finance business and its municipal bond insurance business.
He argued that MBIA was legally restricted from trading billions of dollars of credit default swap (CDS) protection MBIA had sold against various mortgage backed CDOs, and was using a second corporation, LaCrosse Financial Products, which MBIA described as an "orphaned transformer". Ackman bought credit default swaps against MBIA corporate debt and sold them for a large profit during the financial crisis of 2008. He reported covering his short position on MBIA on January 16, 2009, according to the 13D filed with the SEC.
In 2003, a feud developed between Ackman and Carl Icahn over a deal involving Hallwood Realty. They agreed to a "schmuck insurance", under which, if Icahn were to sell the shares within 3 years and made a profit of 10% or more, he and Ackman would split the proceeds. Icahn paid $80 per share. In April 2004, HRPT Property Trust acquired Hallwood, paying $136.16 per share. Under the terms, Icahn owed Ackman investors about $4.5 million, but he refused to pay. Ackman sued. Eight years later, the Court forced Icahn to pay $4.5 million, plus 9% interest per year since the date of the sale.
Pershing Square Capital Management
In 2004, with $54 million from his personal funds and from his former business partner Leucadia National, Ackman started Pershing Square Capital Management. In 2005, Pershing bought a significant share in the fast food chain Wendy's International and successfully pressured it to sell its Tim Hortons doughnut chain. Wendy's spun off Tim Hortons through an IPO in 2006 and raised $670 million for Wendy's investors. After Ackman sold his shares at a substantial profit after a dispute over executive succession, the stock price collapsed, raising criticism that the sale of Wendy's fastest-growing unit left the company in a weaker market position. Ackman blamed the poor performance on their new CEO.
At a panel meeting discussing Bernie Madoff in January 2009, Ackman defended his longtime friend Ezra Merkin, saying, "Has Ezra committed a crime? I don't think so," and "I think [Merkin] is an honest person, an intelligent person, an interesting person, a smart investor." In April 2009, Merkin was charged with civil fraud by the State of New York for "secretly steering $2.4 billion in client money into Bernard Madoff's Ponzi fraud without their permission." A settlement was reached on June 2012 requiring Merkin to pay $405 million to victims including the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.
In December 2012, Pershing Square Capital Management launched a new closed-end fund called Pershing Square Holdings, which raised $3 billion in an October 2014 IPO on Amsterdam's Euronext stock market. As a closed-end fund valued at $6.7 billion, PSH was designed as a permanent capital vehicle from which investors would not be able to directly withdraw funds. PSH reported 17.1% in returns since inception (Dec. 2012 – November 2017) under Ackman's management, 80% below the S&P 500.
Ackman started buying J. C. Penney shares in 2010, paying an average of $22 for 39 million shares or 18% of Penney's stock. In August 2013, Ackman's two-year campaign to transform the department store came to an abrupt end after he decided to step down from the board following an argument with fellow board members.
In a statement dated August 27, 2013, Pershing Square reported that it had hired Citigroup to liquidate the 39.1 million shares the firm then owned of the Plano, Texas-based department-store chain at a price of $12.90 per share, resulting in a loss of approximately $500 million. In January 2015, LCH Investments named Ackman one of the world's top 20 hedge fund managers after Pershing Square delivered $4.5 billion in net gains for investors in 2014, bringing the fund's lifetime gains to $11.6 billion since its launch in 2004 through year-end 2014.
On April 27, 2016, Ackman along with Valeant Pharmaceuticals' outgoing CEO, J. Michael Pearson, and the company's former interim CEO, Howard Schiller, testified before the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging. The testifying panel answered questions related to the Committee's concerns about repercussions to patients and the health care system posed by Valeant's business model and controversial pricing practices.
Ackman sold his remaining 27.2 million share position in Valeant to the Investment Bank Jefferies for about $300 million in March 2017. It has been estimated that the total cost of the position, including direct stock purchases and 9.1 million shares that were underlying stock options traded with Nomura Global Financial Products, was $4.6 billion, leading to a loss greater than the original price of the securities.
In December 2012, Ackman issued a research report that was critical of Herbalife's multi-level marketing business model, calling it a pyramid scheme. Ackman disclosed that his hedge fund, Pershing Square Capital Management, sold short the company's shares directly (not with derivatives) starting in May 2012, causing Herbalife's stock price to drop. In 2014, Ackman spent $50 million on a public relations campaign against Herbalife, which was designed to hurt the company's stock price.
Former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) has called on Congress to investigate Ackman's use of public relations and regulatory pressure in his short campaign, and Harvey L. Pitt, a former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has questioned whether Ackman aims to move the price rather than spread the truth. In 2014, Senator Ed Markey wrote letters to federal regulators, including the FTC and the SEC, demanding they open an investigation into Herbalife's business practices. The day the letters were released, the company's stock dropped 14%. Markey later told the Boston Globe that his staff had not informed him that Ackman stood to benefit financially from his actions and defended the letters as a matter of consumer rights.
In March 2014, the New York Times reported that Ackman had employed tactics to undermine public confidence in Herbalife to lower its stock price, including pressuring state and federal regulators to investigate the company, paying individuals to travel to and participate in rallies against it, and boosting its spending on donations to nonprofit Latino organizations. According to the article, groups such as the Hispanic Federation and the National Consumers League sent federal regulators numerous letters. "Each person contacted by The Times acknowledged in interviews that they wrote the letters after being lobbied by representatives from Pershing Square, or said they did not remember writing the letters at all. Mr. Ackman's team also then started to make payments totaling about $130,000 to some of these groups, including the Hispanic Federation — money he said was being used to help find victims of Herbalife."
On March 12, 2015, The Wall Street Journal reported that prosecutors in the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office and the FBI were investigating whether people hired by Ackman "made false statements about Herbalife's business model to regulators and others in order to spur investigations into the company and lower its stock price." In March 2015, U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer, in Los Angeles, California, dismissed a suit filed by Herbalife investors alleging the company is operating an illegal pyramid scheme. In response to Fischer's ruling, Herbalife stock rose approximately 13%. Herbalife and the FTC reached a settlement agreement in July 2016, ending the agency's investigation into the company. On the day of the settlement, Fortune estimated that Ackman lost $500 million.
Ackman's position on Herbalife led to a discussion on live television with Herbalife supporter Carl Icahn for nearly half an hour on CNBC on January 25, 2013. During the segment, Icahn called Ackman "a crybaby in the schoolyard" and claimed that going public with his short position would eventually force Ackman into the "mother of all short squeezes." On November 22, 2013, Ackman admitted on Bloomberg Television that Pershing Square's open short position in Herbalife was "$400 million to $500 million" in the red, but that he wouldn't be squeezed out and would hold the short "to the end of the earth".
In November 2017, Ackman told Reuters that he had covered his short-sell position, but would continue to bet against Herbalife using put options with no more than 3% of Pershing Square's funds.
On February 28, 2018, Ackman exited his near billion-dollar bet against Herbalife after the company's stock price continued to rise, choosing to build his position in United Technology instead.
Ackman has given to charitable causes such as the Center for Jewish History, where he spearheaded a successful effort to retire $30 million in debt, personally contributing $6.8 million. This donation and those of Bruce Berkowitz, founder of Fairholme Capital Management, and Joseph Steinberg, president of Leucadia National, were the three largest individual gifts the center has ever received.
Ackman's foundation donated $1.1 million to the Innocence Project in New York City and Centurion Ministries in Princeton, N.J. He is a signatory of The Giving Pledge, committing himself to give away at least 50% of his wealth to charitable causes.
In 2006, Ackman, and then wife Karen, founded the Pershing Square Foundation to support innovation in economic development, education, healthcare, human rights, arts and urban development. Since its inception, the foundation has committed more than $400 million in grants since 2006. In 2011, the Ackmans were on The Chronicle of Philanthropy's "Philanthropy 50" list of the most generous donors.
In July 2014, Challenged Athletes Foundation, which provides sports equipment to those with physical disabilities, honored Ackman at a gala fundraiser at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City for helping raise a record $2.3 million.
Ackman endorsed Michael Bloomberg as a prospective candidate for President of the United States in the 2016 presidential election. He is a longtime donor to Democratic candidates and organizations, including Richard Blumenthal, Chuck Schumer, Robert Menendez, the Democratic National Committee, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
- "William Ackman profile". Forbes. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
- "Ackman boosts stake in drugmaker Valeant", reuters.com, November 23, 2015; retrieved December 24, 2015.
- Garber, Amy (2005). "Having words with William Ackman: founder, Pershing Square Capital Management". Nation's Restaurant News.
- de Ternay, Guerric. "Bill Ackman: Who Are the Activist Investors? Why Are They Beneficial for Companies". BoostCompanies. Retrieved June 27, 2014.
- Enginalev, Ertan. "Is Shareholder Activism the Cure for the Common Stock". Carried Interest. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
- Rojas, Claudio. "Eclipse of the Public Corporation Revisited: Concentrated Equity Ownership Theory". The University of Oxford. Retrieved June 27, 2017. ("A common misconception, that all shareholder activists are focused on short-term returns, is rooted in an antiquated phase in US capital markets history – particularly, the highly opportunistic transactions of 1980's 'corporate raiders'. In recent years, however, shareholder activism has noticeably shifted towards longer-term value creation".)
- Parloff, Roger. "The siege of Herbalife". Fortune. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
- Carroll, Rory. "Betting on Zero: Herbalife doc feeds investors' feud as director claims 'dirty tricks'". The Guardian. Retrieved December 6, 2017.
- Minneapolis Star Tribune: "William Ackman - Targeting Target" by CHRIS SERRES Archived May 16, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, startribune.com, January 13, 2008.
- "Miss Ronnie I. Posner Bride of L.D. Ackman". The New York Times. October 7, 1963.
- "Jews take 5 of top 6 spots in annual list of top US givers", The Jerusalem Post, September 2, 2011.
- "Jewish Philanthropy 2.0", ejewishphilanthropy.com, February 23, 2011.
- Ackman, William Albert. "Scaling the ivy wall: the Jewish and Asian American experience in Harvard admissions". Classify. OCLC Research. Retrieved May 21, 2015.
- Ackman profile, harvard.edu; retrieved December 24, 2015.
- "Washington Post: The Rookies' Big Score".
- Richard, Christine; Katherine Burton (January 31, 2008). "Ackman Devoured 140,000 Pages Challenging MBIA Rating". Bloomberg. Retrieved February 22, 2008.
- "MBIA: Call to divide not viable". CNN. February 20, 2008. Archived from the original on February 27, 2008. Retrieved February 26, 2008.
- Staff (January 26, 2009). "Bill Ackman's Pershing Square Files 13D on Borders, Covers MBIA Short". Marketfolly.com. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
- "Here's The 'Schmuck Insurance' Contract That Carl Icahn Just Mentioned On CNBC...", businessinsider.com; accessed February 12, 2018.
- "Here's The 'Schmuck Insurance' Contract That Carl Icahn Just Mentioned On CNBC". businessinsider.com. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
- UNIT PURCHASE AGREEMENT, docs.google.com; accessed February 16, 2018.
- "Ackman Boosts Target State". Bloomberg. December 24, 2007. Archived from the original on January 6, 2008.
- Bary, Andrew (May 25, 2009). "Ackman's Target Campaign Is Off-Target". Online.barrons.com. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
- Jarzemsky, Matt. "UPDATE: Ackman Offers To Finance Borders Buyout Of Barnes & Noble" The Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2010.
- Freed, Dan (January 16, 2009). "Hedge Fund Peers Come to Merkin's Defense". TheStreet.com.
- Kouwe, Zachery (January 16, 2009). "Despite Madoff, Merkin Still Has Some Defenders". The New York Times.
- Cohen, Patricia (January 16, 2009). "But Is Madoff Not So Good for the Jews? Discuss Among Yourselves". The New York Times.
- Graybow, Martha (April 6, 2009). "Merkin charged with civil fraud in Madoff case". Reuters.
- "Hedge fund manager with ties to Bernie Madoff will pay ponzi scheme victims $405M". Daily Mail. London, UK. Associated Press. June 25, 2012.
- Bray, Chad (October 13, 2014). "Ackman Fund's I.P.O. Has Rough Debut in Amsterdam". New York Times DealBook. Retrieved January 26, 2018.
- "Permanent capital: Perpetual cash machines". Financial Times. January 4, 2015. Retrieved January 26, 2018.
- "Pershing Square 3Q17 Investor Letter" (PDF). November 15, 2017. Retrieved May 13, 2016.
- Phil Wahba and Matthew Goldstein (August 13, 2013). "Ackman quits J.C.Penney board, removing distraction". Reuters.
- "Ackman Takes $500 Million Loss on Penney as Saga Ends". Bloomberg L.P. August 27, 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
- Cosgrave, Jenny (January 26, 2015). "Ackman's returns make him a top 20 fund manager". CNBC. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
- "Bill Ackman and Valeant Execs Just Got Through One of the Most Brutal Senate Hearings We've Ever Seen", Business Insider, April 27, 2016, retrieved May 31, 2016
- "Valeant Pharmaceuticals' Business Model: the Repercussions for Patients and the Health Care System", United States Senate Special Committee on Aging, April 27, 2016, retrieved April 29, 2016
- Levine, Matt (March 14, 2017). "Bill Ackman Is Done Losing Money on Valeant". Bloomberg View. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
- Vardi, Nathan (March 13, 2017). "Billionaire Bill Ackman Sells Disastrous Valeant Investment After Nearly $4 Billion Loss". forbes.com.
- Alden, William (December 20, 2012). "Ackman Outlines Bet Against Herbalife". NYT. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
- Roff, Peter (April 8, 2015). "Misusing Markets". U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved July 15, 2015.
- "Bill Ackman Says He's Spent $50 Million on Herbalife Battle". The Street.
- "Congress Should Launch Investigation of Short Sale Market". Roll Call. April 20, 2015. Retrieved June 23, 2015.
- "After Big Bet, Hedge Fund Pulls the Levers of Power". The New York Times. March 9, 2014. Retrieved June 23, 2015.
- "Markey says he was unaware actions would aid firm's rival". Boston Globe. March 10, 2014. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
- "After Big Bet, Hedge Fund Pulls the Levers of Power". The New York Times. March 9, 2014. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
- "Report:The FBI is investigating Bill Ackman over Herbalife". BusinessInsider. March 13, 2015. Retrieved June 16, 2015.
- "Bill Ackman Not Backing Down On Herbalife". The Wall Street Journal. March 13, 2015. Retrieved June 16, 2015.
- "Herbalife Soars as Judge Dismisses Lawsuit (revised)". March 2015. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
- "The Real Winners and Losers in the Herbalife-Bill Ackman War". Fortune.
- "The Ichan-Ackman Feud". CNBC. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
- "Men Dislike Each Other, Might Also Have Opinions On A Stock". Dealbreaker.com. January 25, 2013. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
- Bill Ackman, Dan Loeb, Herbalife, Vanity Fair. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
- Stevenson, Alexandra (November 22, 2013). "Ackman Vows to Take Bet Against Herbalife 'to the End of the Earth'". The New York Times. Retrieved November 23, 2013.
- "Ackman Makes New Bet Against Herbalife With Options". Reuters. November 1, 2017. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
- "Bill Ackman Surrenders in his Five-year War Against Herbalife". Wall Street Journal. February 28, 2018. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
- The Center For Jewish History: "Single Largest Fund-Raising Effort Since Building was Completed in 2000" January 24, 2011
- The Chronicle of Philanthropy: "A Brash Hedge-Fund Manager Applies His Tactics to Philanthropy" By Caroline Preston February 6, 2011
- Business Insider: "What The Richest People On Wall Street's Charity Donations Say About Them" by Mamta Badkar and Courtney Comstock November 12, 2010
- The Jewish Week: "History Center In The Black" by Tamar Snyder January 25, 2011
- Jewish Voice New York: "Jewish Billionaires Join Group Pledging Majority of Their Wealth to Charity" by Sholom Schreiber April 25, 2005
- "Founders". Pershing Square Foundation website. Retrieved July 28, 2015.
- "Bill Ackman: The fighter". Jewish Business News. February 3, 2013. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
- Mallozzi, Vincent M. (January 19, 2019). "As If by Design, Their Connection Was Inevitable". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
- "Philanthropy 50". Philanthropy.com. February 6, 2011. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
- Wieczner, Jen (July 21, 2014). "New hedgie standoff: 'frenemies' Bill Ackman and Dan Loeb compete in charitable giving". Fortune. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
- Ackman, William (February 11, 2016). "America is burning but Michael Bloomberg can put out the fire". Financial Times. Retrieved February 11, 2016.
- "FEC Individual Contribution Search". Federal Election Commission. Retrieved February 2, 2018.
- "WEDDINGS; Karen Herskovitz, William Ackman". The New York Times. July 10, 1994.
- Smith, Emily (December 22, 2016). "Billionaire investor Bill Ackman and wife in 'big-money divorce'". Page Six. Retrieved December 31, 2016.
- "Bill Ackman reportedly splitting with wife in big-money divorce". CNBC. Retrieved February 24, 2017.
- "Fast Company: Activist investor Bill Ackman is engaged to rockstar professor Neri Oxman".
- Mallozzi, Vincent (January 19, 2019). "As If by Design, Their Connection Was Inevitable". Retrieved February 10, 2019.
- investarygroup (July 23, 2014), Pershing Square Bill Ackman Herbalife Presentation 2014 (FULL PRESENTATION), retrieved January 21, 2017
- Cheffins, Brian R. (2014). "Hedge Fund Activism Canadian Style". University of British Columbia Law Review. 47 (1): 1-59) (Discussing Pershing Square's activities in Canada, and a unique cultural reluctance to support active value creation by ethical intervening shareholders). SSRN 2204294.
- Rojas, Claudio R. (2014). "An Indeterminate Theory of Canadian Corporate Law". University of British Columbia Law Review. 47 (1): 59-128 ("The author's perspective on Berkshire Hathaway's investment philosophy was informed by discussions with Warren Buffett in Omaha, Nebraska": pp. 59, 122-124). SSRN 2391775.
- Richard, Christine. Confidence Game (Wiley, 2010) with Bloomberg News.