Ackman Calls Herbalife The World’s “Best-Managed Pyramid Scheme”

Ackman Calls Herbalife The World’s “Best-Managed Pyramid Scheme”
By Herbalife International of America, Inc. ( [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) shares have been falling since Wednesday when it was released that notable hedge fund manager Bill Ackman shorted the stock. The decline had started to flatten out late this morning, but then Ackman began his presentation about why he shorted shares of Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF). Barron’s’ Brendan Conway blogged the full presentation live as it was happening.

Ackman Calls Herbalife The World's "Best-Managed Pyramid Scheme”

Ackman spent two and a half hours explaining his short, even bringing in an attorney because of all the backlash he’s been receiving from the company’s CEO. Shares of Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) have lost more than 10 percent since the markets opened this morning.

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During Ackman’s presentation he brought other analysts from his Pershing Square Capital Management, who walked listeners through Herbalife’s business model. He also questioned how much of the company’s product is consumed by those outside the network—a.k.a. not the distributors. He questioned whether the company even has retail customers outside of its distributors.

Herbalife is a line of nutrition and personal care products, which are sold through independent distributors. All distributors are encouraged to bring others into the company to sell the product. Distributors earn commission when those they have recruited make sales. The company’s CEO has defended the business model and adamantly denied that it is a pyramid scheme.

Ackman’s estimated how many distributors failed in Herbalife’s business model. He estimated almost 2 million of them have failed in the last 30 years. His parting thoughts included the chart Herbalife CEO Michael Johnson showed of the company’s stock sales since 2007, and he said that the put options in the market are not his. Ackman even welcomed the SEC to look at his hedge fund’s books.

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