Having raked up embarrassing and nearly total losses in Valeant, JC Penney, Herbalife (actually the loss on this short squeeze is more than total to Carl Icahn’s delight)… the list goes on, we’ve previously pointed out that it’s amazing hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, once a darling of the financial media, still had outside money to manage.
That might not be the case for much longer: according to the Wall Street Journal, “most investors” in Pershing Square are flooding the company with redemption requests, and asking for their money back at a “rapid pace” forcing Ackman to plan on a future that might not include managing a private fund.
It’s hardly a surprise considering Ackman has notched several years of subpar returns, recently forcing him to lay off 18% of his staff (including his driver) to help him “focus” on investing (what was he doing before?)
Of course – as anybody who has watched the show “Billions” could tell you – in the privileged world of hedge fund management, there’s no worse fate than becoming a family office. Though Ackman would still have the $3.9 billion under the publicly traded Pershing Square Holdings Ltd. Including his own money, Ackman would still have some $5 billion to manage – roughly a quarter of the $20 billion he managed back in July 2015.
WSJ says about two-thirds of the cash available to be withdrawn by the end of the year is being redeemed. Meanwhile, longtime Ackman backer Blackstone Group has been pulling out cash, and JP Morgan Chase & Co’s asset-management group told clients it can’t recommend the fund.
Ackman’s fund declined again during the first quarter, trimming its total assets 12% to $8.2 billion.
Most investors can only pull one eighth of their assets each quarter. Pershing Square is invested in large and highly liquid stocks, like Mondelez International Inc. and Restaurant Brands International Inc. ; when it reduced positions in the past year, the share prices barely budged. A special vehicle whose investors can’t pull their money houses much of Pershing Square’s big investment in Automatic Data Processing Inc.
Meanwhile, Pershing is planning to move to a newly designed headquarters on the West Side of Manhattan this year. Though it will be a smaller space, it will still include lux amenities like a rooftop tennis court.
To be fair, over the long term Ackman has still made his investors more money than he’s lost. Since its inception in 2004, Pershing Square has returned 494% after fees. That’s more than double the S&P 500 over the same period. His recent bets include a hail-mary play in United Technologies, which is rumored to be facing a (potentially lucrative) breakup.
Recent highlights have also included a bitter activist confrontation with the CEO Of ADP, who recently called Ackman a “spoiled brat” and accused him of not “knowing what he’s talking about.” During an interview with the FT, ADP CEO Carlos Rodriguez told a story about a heated conversation with Ackman over Rodriguez’s future at the company where Ackman reportedly said he’s been told that he’s “second only to Donald Trump” in terms of clicks on the Internet, which is demonstrably untrue.
“He said: I know you don’t like the media, but I do and I’m really good at it,” Mr Rodriguez said. “And if this gets into a public battle, it’s going to be bad for you personally, it’s going to be bad for the company, but I’m fine with it because – and he said this – I’m told that I’m only second to Donald Trump in terms of number of clicks on the internet, and hence you will lose if there’s a public relations battle.”
In another sign of the strain these last few years have put on Ackman, he recently endured a public divorce which reportedly cost the billionaire “9-figures“.
But maybe being newly single and ready to mingle will be good for Ackman: one of his most signature long calls – Chipotle Mexican Grill – is up more than 20% year to date after he helped it pick a new CEO.
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