It’s a financial dogfight for the ages. When billionaire investor and CEO of Pershing Square Capital hedge fund William Ackman short-sold $1 billion in stock of Herbalife, the Los Angeles-based nutrition company, he drew the ire not just of the company, but of other fellow hedge funders who saw Ackman as taking his legendary arrogance too far.
In a speech at the Oxford University Saïd Business School at the end of October, Ackman said the company was nothing more than a Ponzi schemeand that his target share price for Herbalife stock was $0. He predicted the business would collapse “within 12 months,” Business Insider reported.
Herbalife’s CEO Michael Johnson has taken particular issue with these claims, calling it a “bogus accusation” while accusing Ackman of manipulating the market, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. Ackman has made himself a string of enemies, including Dan Loeb, the founder of Third Point LLC Hedge Fund, who has subsequently bought a large position in Herbalife, betting on its long term viability.
Despite their current animosity, Ackman and Loeb used to be friendly not least because of their shared Jewish values. For one thing, both Ackman and Loeb married the proverbial Nice Jewish Girl — Ackman married Karen Herskowitz in New York, and Loeb was married to Margaret Munzer by Rabbi Hershy Blumstein in East Hampton. Both too are engaged in philanthropic and political activities, often with a Jewish bent.
A representative for Loeb told the Forward that Ackman and Loeb are still friendly.
“Dan last week at a Dealbook conference said many nice things about Mr. Ackman,” the rep said in an email. “There is no feud between Dan and Bill.”
Ackman is from an affluent Jewish family from Chappaqua, N.Y., and told the Hillel Renaissance Award dinner in 2011 that he found Harvard, his alma mater, to be “a very WASPy place.” He said that he regularly ate meals at Harvard Hillel and joked that he even joined crew in order to meet other Jews. In February 2011, Ackman was listed as one of the top 50 most charitable Americans for 2010, JTA reported. In total, he and his wife gave away $59.3 million in 2010, part of which was a pledge of $25 million for Newark, New Jersey school system which Ackman made following Mark Zuckerberg’s pledge of $100 million. The same year The Jerusalem Post called him “one of Wall Street’s most significant players.”
Also in 2010, Ackman gave $6.75 million toward paying down the $30 million debt of the Center for Jewish History in New York, on whose board he serves. The Ackman family said they support the Center because, “We want our children to know, not only their living relatives, but those representing past generations, for a greater connection to their family and ancestral origin and heritage.” Ackman also contributes to the Innocence Project, a non-profit started by former O.J. Simpson defense lawyers Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, which works to free the wrongly convicted, Jewish Philanthropy reported.