Friday, January 25, 2013

Ackman vs. Icahn

Carl Icahn and Bill Ackman really hate each other.

The two billionaires duked it out in an amazing show of verbal hostility on live television Friday, letting loose with a torrent of insults and obscenities. It was an unprecedented spectacle, one that the financial world won't forget anytime soon.

And the stock at the center of it all, Herbalife (HLF +0.79%), went nuts during the conversation.

The two investors have been fighting for years, going back to 2003, when Ackman's former company was under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Icahn bought Ackman's shares in a real estate company called Hallwood Realty, but the issue turned into a nasty legal battle later.

There's so much animosity between the two, in fact, that New York restaurants know not to seat them near each other, according to The New York Times.

The two are feuding again over Herbalife, a stock that Ackman has made a well-publicized bet against. Ackman has called the company a pyramid scheme. News reports later said that Icahn had bought a position in Herbalife -- something Icahn has not publicly confirmed.

The tension between the two has been building for days. In an interview with Bloomberg television, Icahn said he didn't respect Ackman and challenged his "holier than thou" attitude. Ackman went on CNBC to defend himself, and Icahn joined in as well.

*** [7/16/14]

NEW YORK, July 16 (Reuters) - Carl Icahn and William Ackman are friends again.

The billionaire investors, who have been at odds over nutrition and diet company Herbalife, made up in public on Wednesday, ending a decade long feud that exploded on cable television 18 months ago.

Icahn, 78, who made his reputation in the 1980s, and Ackman, 48, seen by some as a young version of the older corporate raider, sparred over opposing bets on Herbalife on CNBC in January 2013. Icahn has taken a long position on the stock and Ackman is short.

On Wednesday at the CNBC Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha Conference, the men hugged and then praised each other over their investor activism.

When asked about who would win the Herbalife bet, Ackman said "it is not about winning. I would love to get Carl out of Herbalife."

He added that Icahn could walk away with a handsome profit.

The war of words that began when Icahn called Ackman a cry baby in a school yard and Ackman shot back that Icahn was not an honest man captivated Wall Street for roughly half an hour on CNBC and was played repeatedly by the network.

The network provided the stage for the reconciliation at its CNBC Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha conference after suggesting the move to Ackman three weeks ago.

The detente has been months in the making, with both sides saying relations improved in late April and hinting they might even team up. Each man took pains to say nice things about the other in recent weeks, often while appearing on CNBC.

On Wednesday, Ackman appeared as a "mystery guest" at the conference, causing the audience to applaud when he walked onto the stage and gave Icahn a hug.

The men agreed good corporate chiefs need to run companies and that boards should let executives do their jobs, as long as they do them well.

Icahn said there was room for their kind of activism.

"At the risk of sounding immodest, there is no one better at finance than us," Icahn said to Ackman.

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