Speaking at the Invest for Kids conference in Chicago today, hedge fund manager Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management made a number of bold statements.
Ackman’s goal to replace Allergan CEO
Seemingly displeased with recent developments at Allergan, Inc. (NYSE:AGN), where the company revealed it is negotiating with potential white knight Actavis, Ackman said one of his goals was replacing the CEO of Allergan, who he indicated was not focused on quick growth.
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Ackman doesn’t like typical stock option incentive programs given to CEOs because they are incented to slowly grow a company. If the stock price were to climb quickly, the CEOs options the year after the dramatic stock price rise would be vested at a high level. As such, he likes CEOs that are in their late 60s “because they are incented to grow the stock price right away,” as opposed to younger CEOs who want to stay in the company for a longer time.
Ackman: Allergan’s deal with Actavis to benefit Actavis stocks
Ackman noted the Allergan, Inc. (NYSE:AGN) / Actavis plc (NYSE:ACT) deal would involve a significant portion of Actavis stock. Allergan had bitterly criticized the Valeant / Ackman acquisition offer due to its significant reliance on stock to purchase Allergan. Ackman indicated the Allergan proxy meeting, scheduled for December 18, might be “irrelevant” as he indicated the likelihood of a deal to be announced before that date.
Ackman also had sharp words for the government and Judge for their involvement in the Fannie Mae / Federal National Mortgage Assctn Fnni Me (OTCBB:FNMA) and Freddie Mac / Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp (OTCBB:FMCC) takeover. Saying Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were and continue to be “two of the best businesses in the world,” Ackman lashed out at the government’s takeover of the two publically traded companies. Ackman said they could be worth $40-50 down the road, calling it the “most interesting risk/reward of anything we own.” He has about 2% of the firm’s capital invested in them. Ackman called the government’s move the “largest taking of a private asset ever.”
Comparing the government’s action in seizing ownership of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the lawsuit brought by American International Group Inc (NYSE:AIG)’s primary owner Hank Greenberg, he said the government claiming that stock holders still have a financial interest in the stock because it trades – even though they don’t receive dividends or benefit from the profitability – could lead to further examples of government taking over private property. “If the government can simply take private property, it could blow up the entire country,” he said, calling the judge in the case “hostile” towards the interests of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shareholders.
Ackman also hinted that his Canadian Pacific (CP) may be interested in acquiring NSC. There have been past reports of CP’s interest of CSX but said CSX “is not the only potential railroad we can merge with.” Ackman noted the major gridlock in US rail traffic and mentioned a merger could help improve that.