William Ackman, Carl Icahn CNBC Slugfest

Bill AckmanBill Ackman Photo via InsiderMonkey, Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

William Ackman appeared on CNBC this afternoon to discuss his current strategies, including his infamous short on Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF). There was a surprise awaiting the fund manager, however, as Carl Icahn called in to accuse Ackman of being a “cry baby.” He then refused to answer the questions of the interviewer, on the grounds that he was “being bullied.”

William Ackman, Carl Icahn CNBC Slugfest

Icahn refused to reveal whether or not he was long Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) though rumors circling in recent weeks, and his regular contributions on the subject, have made many almost certain that he is in fact on the opposite side of the trade. The rhetoric has in recent days sounded more like playground bickering than hedge fund argument.

Icahn appeared to forget he was on live television several times during the segment on CNBC. On Ackman’s claim that he would give all the personal profits he received from his short on Herbalife, Icahn said “He talks about charity.  That’s complete bull s**t!” an interesting choice of words indeed.

The segment on CNBC is probably one of the most interesting pieces of financial soap operas of all time. Icahn appeared guns blazing, making personal attacks on Ackman, and then refused to answer the only question anybody wanted to ask him. His claims of being bullied are laughable, considering the words he used to describe Ackman during the interview.

That’s not to suggest that Ackman has been much better in this exchange. It was he, rather than Icahn, who first began talking about who wanted to be friends with who. Ackman’s attacks have seemed more measured, however. Icahn’s call into CNBC today certainly made him look less than sympathetic.

Icahn released a written statement just minutes before he called into CNBC, responding to William Ackman’s playground jibes, stating that he had never asked to be Ackman’s friend, and that though Ackman had called him a great investor he could not bring himself to return the compliment.

The battle has become a little silly in recent days, but neither of the two hedge fund managers seem to appreciate the futility of their public discourse. It can be assumed that whoever is running publicity for Carl Icahn is working overtime right now, trying to find a way to recover from the CNBC segment.

The financial press, of course, is more willing to provoke this behavior than condemn it. At one point during the CNBC segment, Scott Warpner asked Bill Ackman if he was friends with Dan Loeb of Third Point LLC. Loeb has also been opposing Ackman on the trade.
The Herbalife saga is bound to continue, though after Icahn’s outburst today, it may be a little more restrained going forward. Icahn isn’t doing himself any favors, and his hedge fund probably won’t benefit from an image of being led by a hot head.
Herbalife stock seemed only to benefit from the exchange on CNBC, meaning the market may have responded better to Icahn that it did to William Ackman. Before the CNBC segment the stock was up by just over 0.4%. It’s now trading up almost 1.4% for the day.


The full video of Bill Ackman Vs Carl Icahn is now up on CNBC and can be found below:

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Paul Shea
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