Political Donations Overshadowed By Ackman’s Charitable Contributions

CREW Herbalife Ltd. HLF Bill Ackman speaking

Taking a break from donating to political interests to hasten the downfall of Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) and benefit his short position in the stock, activist hedge fund manager Bill Ackman announced a $17 million donation to Harvard University last week.

This time Ackman was donating to a panel of innovative scientists, providing grants to an age group and type of science that is often ignored by the National Institute of Health, according to Moses Chao, coordinator of the molecular neurobiology program at the NYU Langone Medical Center, who was quoted in a Bloomberg report that showered praise on Ackman’s philanthropic endeavors.

New York based medical researchers with bold ideas spotlighted

Among other charitable activities, Ackman’s grant will benefit 12 New York-based researchers, each of whom will receive $200,000 per year for up to three years.  At last week’s event, an event panel chose 12 finalists for the first “Pershing Square Sohn Prize for Young Investigators.” The winners will be announced May 5 at the Sohn Investment Conference in New York City.

“We’re are looking for the most innovative projects with the best applicants,” Olivia Flatto, executive director of the Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance, said in the report. Flatto was the primary architect behind the award and determined its focus on young New York-based researchers with “bold ideas.”  It is unclear if researchers outside New York with “bold ideas” are excluded from the process.

Whitney Tilson supporting Ackman charity as well as business objectives

Among the well-known hedge fund players at the event included Whitney Tilson of T2 Partners Management, who has made interesting statements on Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF), a target of Ackman’s professional passion.

On Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF), Tilson took Ackman’s position, saying: “I’ve long believed that both companies’ business models are fundamentally rooted in exploiting and victimizing the vast majority of their customers, but they were tough shorts because ripping your customers’ eyeballs out is highly profitable, so the companies kept reporting wonderful growth, margins, share repurchases, etc. – and there seemed to be no end in sight because both companies had been engaging in this behavior for decades (literally) yet regulators hadn’t done anything.”

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About the Author

Mark Melin
Mark Melin is an alternative investment practitioner whose specialty is recognizing a trading program’s strategy and mapping it to a market environment and performance driver. He provides analysis of managed futures investment performance and commentary regarding related managed futures market environment. A portfolio and industry consultant, he was an adjunct instructor in managed futures at Northwestern University / Chicago and has written or edited three books, including High Performance Managed Futures (Wiley 2010) and The Chicago Board of Trade’s Handbook of Futures and Options (McGraw-Hill 2008). Mark was director of the managed futures division at Alaron Trading until they were acquired by Peregrine Financial Group in 2009, where he was a registered associated person (National Futures Association NFA ID#: 0348336). Mark has also worked as a Commodity Trading Advisor himself, trading a short volatility options portfolio across the yield curve, and was an independent consultant to various broker dealers and futures exchanges, including OneChicago, the single stock futures exchange, and the Chicago Board of Trade. He is also Editor, Opalesque Futures Intelligence and Editor, Opalesque Futures Strategies. - Contact: Mmelin(at)valuewalk.com

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