Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) has become the most intriguing stock recently. Between Bill Ackman being short, Dan Loeb holding long, David Einhorn keeping mum, Carl Icahn also long, and finally Whitney Tilson doing what he does best, the company has become a true juggling ball.
While we see hedge funds battling it out with companies everyday, it is rare to witness two extremely influential hedge fund managers crossing swords. Dan Loeb disclosing his long position in HLF, while the stock was plummeting due to Ackman’s short, reminds us of Bruce Berkowitz going long on The St. Joe Company (NYSE:JOE), after David Einhorn disclosed a short position. Einhorn presented a 139 page thesis at the Value Investing Congress in 2010. However, Einhorn did not set a $0 price target for The St. Joe Company (NYSE:JOE) like Ackman did for Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF). At that time, Einhorn thought the stock was worth $7-$10, while Berkowitz held it as a long position.
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To this day, Berkowitz still holds stock of St. Joe and is also the chairman of its board. He could not have been profitable in this long position, but apparently he still has some faith left. When Einhorn spoke about St. Joe, the stock traded around $24 and fell more than 10 percent. With several dips on the way to lower than $13 in late 2011, St. Joe trades at $23 on the market today. Einhorn still sees no significant value in the company, while Berkowitz still holds 25 million shares of the company (over 7 percent of his long portfolio). Since Einhorn began shorting St.Joe in 2006, when it traded in the range of $50, this should have been a profitable investment but we cannot say the same for Berkowitz.
So are we looking at Dan Loeb joining the board of Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) like Berkowitz did with The St. Joe Company (NYSE:JOE)? Loeb is known for his magic and he has been especially on the right side of almost everything in the last year. First he turned around Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) and then the huge returns of Third Point Ultra and Third Point Offshore Funds. While we did not see Berkowitz accepting Einhorn’s offer to debate on St. Joe, perhaps we will see Loeb and Ackman going one-on-one to settle Herbalife’s mess. That may be wishful thinking but Einhorn breaking his silence on Herbalife would settle a lot of confusion. After all, it was his question in the earnings call in May, which sent the shares on their downward spiral.
We know all of this is going to get even more interesting in the coming days when Icahn speaks out about his position. After all, the seven year saga of battling it out in court against Ackman and then losing the verdict is a sore wound that would not be easily forgettable for Icahn, who is also known as the ‘shakedown artist’. Ackman and Icahn have argued in court over a deal on Hallwood Realty shares that Ackman sold to Icahn, who later refused to split profits. For more detail, read Business Insider’s comprehensive backstory.
Ackman likes all this attention on Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF). The investor meeting hosted by Herbalife was unable to bring about any significant appreciation in stock market, after peaking at $42.49, the stock has fallen more than 3 percent. Like the St. Joe saga, the Herbalife story could last for a very long time.