Bill Ackman and Carl Icahn appeared on stage together at the Delivering Alpha conference today. They were making nice and sharing the love, almost a repeat of the kumbaya phone call they had earlier this year. Of course both spent ample amounts of time talking about strategy as well.
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Ackman and Icahn said they both respect each other, with Ackman saying that they have different approaches but that he appreciates that Icahn’s isn’t afraid of what he thinks.
Icahn once again emphasized that companies tend not to be “really run that well,” specifically talking about pension funds and saying that in ten years, many of them will “go bankrupt and the little guy will end up losing.” He also said many companies still have “very mediocre management.”
Ackman agreed with him but said that sometimes it’s necessary for board members to get involved. Icahn responded that it’s necessary to let CEOs run the companies, unless they’re not doing a good job.
Carl Icahn, Bill Ackman on retail investors
Then the discussion turned to retail investments. Ackman said they have a good track record with retail companies, with J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) being the big example of a failure. However, he said it’s one of only three failures he has had in retail.
Ackman added that he thinks Icahn needs retail investors to back him in order to be successful He sees “very little downside because the major investors have to support the activist.”
Icahn and Ackman on Allergan, Herbalife
Ackman is pushing for a merger between Valeant Pharmaceuticals Intl Inc (NYSE:VRX) (TSELVRX) and Allergan, Inc. (NYSE:AGN), so that’s where the conversation went next. He said Valeant’s board is attacking Allergan about things that just aren’t true and may even be illegal. He thinks the transaction between the two companies will eventually happen even though Allergan has accused Valeant of accounting fraud. He thinks Allergan’s board should review Valeant’s financials more closely.
And finally, they were asked about Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) and who’s going to win. Ackman said it isn’t about winning and that he would “love to get Carl out of it and half him make a profit.”