Saturday, 2 August 2014
Last updated 11 hours ago
Jan 25 2013 | 3:25pm ET
The mudslinging contest between William Ackman and Carl Icahn reached its apex this afternoon on live television.
The feud between the two men heated up recently, when Ackman, head of Pershing Square Asset Management, announced he was shorting nutritional supplements company Herbalife, which he called a "pyramid scheme." Icahn took the other side.
The eight-year-long fight, which began with a bitter court battle over just $4.5 million, has seen its share of zingers. Ackman has called Icahn "a shakedown artist" and said "his word is worthless;" Icahn has countered that the younger Ackman "just likes pounding himself on the chest." The dispute is so ugly that the general manager of Marea, the pricey Central Park South restaurant, knows not to seat Ackman, a frequent diner, next to Icahn.
The latest skirmish began yesterday, when Icahn told Bloomberg Television, "it's no secret I don't like Ackman," and trashing Ackman's three-hour presentation on Herbalife last month.
"Frankly, I don't like the way he did this anyway," Icahn said. "If you're short, you go short and hey, if it goes down, you make money. You don't go out and get a roomful of people to badmouth the company. If you want to be in that business, why don't you go out and join the SEC?"
Ackman wasn't going to take that lying down, issuing a press release last night alleging that Icahn offered an olive branch after Ackman won their inaugural court battle.
"After Carl paid my investors, he called me up, congratulated me on winning, and said that he wanted to be my friend," Ackman said. "I told him that I had no interest in being his friend."
"Carl Icahn is a great investor, but, in my experience, he does not keep his word."
Icahn wasted no time in retorting, in his own press release this morning, "I thank him but unfortunately I cannot return the compliment."
"To get the record straight, I never asked Ackman to be my friend," Icahn wrote. "Quite to the contrary, Ackman has stated to me on more than one occasion that it’s a shame we are not friends because then he could have invested with me. But, even if we were friends, I would never have invested with him because I believe he takes inordinate risks. HLF I believe proves this point."
"Selling short 20% of the shares of a company such as HLF with limited partners’ money that can be withdrawn, in my opinion, leaves much to be questioned."
The juvenile dispute over who wants to be whose friend did not end there, however. A furious and profane Icahn called in to CNBC's "Fast Money Halftime Report" today during an interview with Ackman, and he did not hold back.
"I've really sort of had it with this guy Ackman," Icahn opened.
"He's like the crybaby in the schoolyard. You know, I went to a tough school in Queens, and they used to beat up the little Jewish boys, and he was like one of these little Jewish boys crying that the world was taking advantage of him."
"He's the quintessential example that on Wall Street, if you want a friend, get a dog," Icahn added.
Ackman tried to give as good as he got.
"I was concerned about dealing with Carl Icahn because Carl Icahn unfortunately does not have a good reputation for being a handshake guy," he said. "He's a bully."
"Carl Icahn thought, this guy is roadkill on the hedge fund highway. I'm never going to have to worry about this kid again. He's not going to have the resources to sue me, so I'm just not going to pay him. And, by the way, the number of stories I have heard from bankers, from lawyers, from people he's transacted with, where he's done similar kinds of things to take advantage of someone."
"This is not an honest guy and this is not a guy who keeps his word," Ackman said. "This is a guy who takes advantage of little people."
Icahn—after feuding with host Scott Wapner, who he accused of bullying him—retorted that "Ackman is a liar" and "has got one of the worst reputations on Wall Street."
"Ackman was going badly in 2012. He was down 2% or 3%. He probably woke up in the morning and said, 'Let's see, what company can we destroy' and put a bear rate on it."
As for the disputed dinner and friendship offer, Icahn said, "when I left, I couldn't figure out if he was the most sanctimonious guy I ever met in my life or the most arrogant."
"After he won" their court battle, Icahn said, Ackman "planted a few stories in The New York Times, pounding his chest, telling the world how great he was. As far as I'm concerned, they guy is a major loser."
"Carl either has a very, very bad memory, or he has trouble with the truth," Ackman responded in tune.
"The big issue about Carl Icahn is that he's not used to people standing up to him, and particularly a little guy like me in 2003."
The 25-minute exchange, punctuated by oohs and ahhs on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, then devolved into something little better than schoolyard bickering, with Ackman telling Icahn, "you are no friend of mine" and Icahn responding, "I wouldn’t be friends with you."
To cap it off, responding to Icahn's allegations that Ackman has said he wished they were friends so that they could invest together, Ackman asked, "Carl, you think I want to invest with you?"
"I wouldn't invest with you if you were the last man on Earth!" Icahn retorted.
Ackman "shows the world that he made 12% [last year], which isn't so great anyway," Icahn said. "I'd like to say that we made 28% last year without going and having to go pump-and-dump stocks."
Icahn then asked Ackman what he would do if someone made a tender offer for Herbalife and his borrowed shares were called back.
"Carl's free to make a tender offer for the company," Ackman shot back.
"Hey, hey, you don't have to tell me what I'm fee to do," Icahn responded.