Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) has been in limelight for almost 10 months. Since billionaire hedge fund investor Bill Ackman took a massive $1 billion short position in the nutritional supplement maker, several other investors have been bullish on the stock. Ackman called Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF)’s business model an illegal pyramid scheme that will soon collapse. The stock is up nearly 100% this year.
Battle for Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) started at a dinner
Juliet Chung, Emily Glazer and Gregory Zuckerman of the Wall Street Journal offer some inside details about how the fight between Bill Ackman and George Soros began. On June 6, Ackman had an “idea dinner” with several other investors. At the dinner, Ackman tried to persuade investors into his idea about Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF). Paul Sohn, a senior executive at Soros Fund Management LLC, wasn’t convinced. After listening to Ackman, he felt that Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) was a really good buy, people familiar with the dinner told Chung, Glazer and Zuckerman. The nutritional supplement maker had already denied allegations by Bill Ackman.
Until that dinner, the Soros firm owned a small amount of Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) shares. But the fund, which has $25 billion in AUM, began to buy Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) stock aggressively after the dinner. By the end of July, Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) became one of the biggest holdings of Soros Fund Management LLC. Recently, Ackman filed a complaint to SEC about Soros Fund’s purchases. Ackman alleged that Soros Fund violated regulations by disclosing its Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) investment to other investment firms before filing any regulatory disclosures.
The Wall Street Journal estimates that Bill Ackman has incurred paper losses of about $350 million on his $1 billion bet against the nutritional supplement maker. Carl Icahn has already become the largest shareholder of Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF), and has gained two board seats. Daniel Loeb’s Third Point LLC has also made significant money betting that Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) stock will rise.
What did Ackman mention about Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) at the dinner?
Paul Sohn was not interested in Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) until Bill Ackman went public with his short position. The dinner was organized by JonesTrading, a brokerage firm. At the dinner, Ackman told his fellow investors that California Rep. Linda Sánchez had sent a letter to FTC, requesting the agency to investigate Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF). The Cayman Islands-based company was disappointed that Rep. Sánchez contacted the Federal Trade Commission before getting in touch with the company.
Paul Sohn felt that Rep. Sánchez’s letter is unlikely to have the kind of impact Ackman bragged about. Sohn also believed that the company would announce share repurchase plans, helping the stock go higher. Late last month, Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) announced a buyback plan. And yes, the stock has shot up 50% since that June 6 dinner.
Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) shares were up 1.32% to $66.03 at 11:57 AM EDT.