Dan Loeb, the aggressive activist investor, is set to speak at the NYTimes Dealbook Conference today. The hedge fund manager, famous for writing stinging and blunt letters to company boards, is currently involved in shaking up Sothebys (NYSE:BID) and Sony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE). Admittedly his tactics with Sony’s board are more polite than his usual style. Loeb initially suggested that the Japanese electronics company should spin off its entertainment and film arm and focus on its core business. His suggestions did not find favor with Sony’s board, however the CEO of Sony admitted that Loeb was right in saying that Sony needs to improve its margins.
Dan Loeb fund gains
Dan Loeb’s Third Point Offshore Fund has gained 19.4% for the year through October. The event driven hedge fund has done better than several of its peers. Dan Loeb will also be speaking at The Robin Hood Conference, which is taking place later this month on Nov 21-22.
Andrew Ross Sorkin will be having a one-on-one with Dan Loeb. Take a look at our live notes from the interview here.
On Sorkin’s question about activism at company boards, Dan Loeb says democracy is not always perfect and at times can have a lot of flaws in it. He says shareholder activism has changed the trajectory of business.
Regarding J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP), Loeb said that it was a messy situation. and that Bill Ackman had many had many successful investments in his record. But JCP’s board was responsible for its problems.
On the subject of Sony Corp, Loeb said that he is not going against Sony and what we are doing there is very constructive. On Clooney and his opinion of Dan Loeb, Loeb said he would like to refer to him as ‘George’. Loeb said he would love to meet him sometime and talk about his bet on Sony. Loeb said that Clooney got a little worked-up and misinterpreted us.
Sorkin said that the perception was that he would stay in Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE: HLF) for longer than just a span of weeks, and he also had a price target on it. Loeb said that Bill Ackman could still believe that Herbalife was a ponzi scheme.
Loeb said that we just decided to take the profits and run. But there was no pump and dump involved, he had a price target of $50-$70. He siad, “My fiduciary duty is to my investors, not to Bill Ackman”.
Dan Loeb said that we focus on misunderstood companies that have a special place in my heart, in that regard Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) is an example. He believed that Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) had a lot of hidden value.
Regarding Sothebys (NYSE:BID), Loeb said it is one of the most remarkable global brands and has great potential.
Loeb also disclosed that he owns FedEx Corporation (NYSE:FDX) and that he met with the company’s board and likes the leadership.
Sorkin asks how personal is Herbalife for you, if its a personal issue between him and Bill Ackman. Loeb said, there is nothing personal, he added “it might come as a shock to you, but hedge fund managers do engage in silly banter with each other from time to time”.
On Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr, Loeb said that he supports the decision and it was made unanimously by the board.
Loeb said he puts principles before profits. He said activist investors should be thought of as investment geeks and research analysts. Regarding the current stance of Federal Reserve, Loeb said that he is pretty bullish and doesn’t think that stocks will go down.