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How Bill Ackman’s anti-woke crusade paid off

How Bill Ackman’s anti-woke crusade paid off
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Bill Ackman’s turn as an anti-DEI provocateur has turned the investor, well-known enough on Wall Street but not far beyond, into a culture warrior. It’s also been very good for business.

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Shares of his Amsterdam-listed investment firm have been on a tear since Ackman took to X to criticize corporate diversity efforts, support Israel, stump for long-shot presidential candidates, question childhood vaccine schedules, and bash the student protests that have taken over college quads across the country.

Ackman owns about 27% of the fund, which means the transformation to a right-wing meme stock has earned him $280 million. There’s no obvious explanation other than Ackman’s political turn: He’s added half a million X followers over the same period.

Pershing Square Holdings, which went public in 2014, lets retail investors own Ackman’s private investment book. It trades the same stocks as his onetime activist hedge fund, which is now essentially a family office.

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Despite posting some of the industry’s best returns, Pershing Square traded at a steep discount to the price of the stocks it owned, a gap that was only partly explained by the hefty fees it charges. It basically boiled down to a “lack of trust in Ackman” and worries that he’d pull “another Valeant,” one investor wrote, a disastrous investment that lost $4 billion and forced Ackman to publicly apologize to his investors.

“Great story Bill, how about the massive discount on PSH? Seriously frustrating,” one investor responded to an Ackman tweet last year bragging about a recent tennis win. In 2017, activist hedge fund Elliott bought a chunk of Pershing’s shares and tried to pressure Ackman to liquidate it. To fend off the attack, Ackman personally borrowed $300 million from JPMorgan and bought control of the fund, he said on Lex Fridman’s podcast in February.

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The gap between Pershing Square’s stock price and the value of its investment portfolio bottomed out at around 35% in September. It began narrowing when Ackman started publicly attacking university presidents at Harvard, his alma mater, and MIT, where his wife works. Today it’s 25%, worth more than $1 billion in market value.





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