Almost exactly five years ago, as a reporter covering hedge funds for the New York Post, I was asked to cover Bill Ackman’s presentation on Herbalife, during which he announced a $1 billion short bet against the company he thought was a pyramid scheme. I didn’t know Ackman at the time, but I tend to be skeptical about companies like Herbalife, so I was intrigued.
In the ensuing years, I’ve come to know Bill–as he likes everyone to call him—pretty well. I’ve covered his many ups and downs, from Herbalife to Allergan to Valeant and most recently, ADP. I’ve watched his many odd and often unhinged enemies go after him, using terms like ‘Kill Bill 3” –a window into a very ugly side of Wall Street –while fellow journalists predicted his demise, mentioning an ever-elusive “waterloo.” I watched as Herbalife moved heaven and earth to get the Feds to go after him –and I was dismayed to see much of the media buy into Herbalife’s spin, even though it is Herbalife, not Ackman, whom the feds are (still) going after.
But Ackman hangs in there. As one Herbalife investor put it early on, “Ackman is resilient, f…ing resilient.” That has been something to watch and, yes, to admire.
Nonetheless, it was no easy task to write a profile about Bill Ackman for Institutional Investor magazine, if only because I know too much about him (some of it too personal to disclose) and even magazine word counts are limited. The story was six months in the making—as Ackman kept putting off the promised interview, no doubt waiting for his comeback to materialize–and annoying me in the process. (He’s still waiting.) But very few hedge fund guys are as open with the media—and particularly me—as Bill is, and I can’t imagine any other man who would sit for this type of interview, with all the hard questions, at this point in his career.
I hope you enjoy the article.