Bill Ackman Talks Relationships

CREW Herbalife Ltd. HLF Bill Ackman speaking

You’ve seen the “Bill Ackman type” before.  The man of boyish good looks is the type of guy you might imagine being president of the fraternity, an Italian convertible driving around campus that could often be found in various sorority parking lots early in the morning.

A man who patches up a fight by calling to forgive the other participant

Bill Ackman is the type of guy with so many options he doesn’t play by the common rules of relationships, he makes up the rules to fit his game.  Some things in life transfer from one stage to the next.  On Monday CNBC aired an interview with Ackman where the activist said he wasn’t working on his relationship with Icahn when he called to break the ice of conflict.  “I was calling to forgive him,” Ackman reiterated.

Bill Ackman: A cold pragmatism about relationships

Bill Ackman  man was pragmatic with his relationships.  Discussing Icahn, he may disagree with the man on several levels, but he wouldn’t rule out working with Icahn in the future on deals.  In certain respects he reminds one of the guy who, as the bars are closing, sends out a text message to 12 women and then selects a bed for the night based on who responds.  Teaming up with Icahn is cold, unemotional business calculus.  The Ackman / Icahn duo in a future acquisition could be a relationship where two opposite forces combine to complement each other.  Ackman brings the suave and the behind the scenes regulatory muscle, Icahn brings the bare knuckles of a schoolyard bully.

Legal front running with Allergan?

When asked in the CNBC interview if he thought his activist investing approach would get questioned by regulators, Ackman thinks he’s in the clear.  CNBC’s Scott Wapner addressed his Allergan deal, where Ackman was aware of a company he was working with purchasing the stock and purchased stock before the deal was public was “legal front running or insider trading,” Ackman was strategic.

“The way to look at this is by saying ‘who is being helped and who is being harmed?” Ackman said, using pretty much the same argument for legalizing marijuana in America. While avoiding the front running and insider trading issues, he discusses Canadian Pacific Railway Limited (NYSE:CP) (TSE:CP).  This was a situation where Ackman took 14% of the company and then “had Hunter Harrison in our pocket” to be the next CEO.  Once the deal was announced the stock went from $60 to $173 per share over time, Ackman proudly noted.  “If an activist can’t build a stake before announcing their plan, there won’t be activism,” he said.

That Bill Ackman knows how to talk up a stock price and, one can imagine how he might have charmed the ladies back in the day.

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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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