Bill Ackman Retires From ‘Vocal’ Short Selling Activism

Billionaire investor Bill Ackman, who spent years building his reputation as a vocal corporate agitator, now plans to work mostly behind the scenes with management and take what he calls a “quiet approach” to force change.

After three years of strong double-digit returns, Ackman told investors Tuesday that American companies now know who he is and there is no need for loud tactics that other activist investors might employ.”

All of our interactions with companies over the past five years have been cordial, constructive and productive,” Ackman wrote in Pershing Square Holdings’ annual report.

“So if it’s helpful to call this quieter approach Pershing Square 3.0, be anointed,” he wrote.

Ackman wrote Tuesday what investors had long suspected: the once-loose investor, who fought vociferous proxy competitions at Target, Canadian Pacific Railway and Automatic Data Processing Inc, switched gears.

Herbalife logo
Ackman has shorted Herbalife stock. “We have finally retired from this industry,” he wrote.

Pershing Square’s recent investments — again, Netflix and Canadian Pacific — underscore the new mood, with Ackman immediately heaping praise on those in charge. In earlier years, his pressure campaigns often led to CEO changes at companies such as JC Penney, Air Products and Chemicals, and Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Ackman also said he would never again engage in the loudest pro-activism: “activist short selling,” like he did at nutrition company Herbalife.

“We have finally retired from this industry,” he wrote.

Ironically, Carl Icahn, the prominent activist with whom he feuded publicly on cable TV over Herbalife, seems to be moving in the opposite direction just as Ackman struggles to stay out of the limelight.

Supermarket chain Kroger said Tuesday that Icahn plans to appoint two people to its board of directors. He is also running for board seats at McDonald’s and is fighting Southwest Gas Holdings.

Meanwhile, Ackman wrote that Pershing Square 3.0 will “make our jobs easier and more fun and improve the quality of our lives.”

While Pershing Square is posting small losses for 2022, the company is still faring far better than the broader stock market thanks to interest rate hedges protecting against a sharp market slump. The last three years have been lucrative. In 2021, Pershing Square Holdings returned 26.9% after gaining 70.2% in 2020 and rising 58.1% in 2019. Bill Ackman Retires From ‘Vocal’ Short Selling Activism


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