Ackman Talks Penney's, Herbalife And Loeb On Charlie Rose

Aug 15 2013 | 12:32pm ET

Amidst a turbulent week, Pershing Square Capital Management's William Ackman sat down with interviewer Charlie Rose on Tuesday.

Ackman told the PBS legend that "you learn from your mistakes."

But, he added, "investing is a business where you can look very silly for a meaningful period of time before you're proven right."

Ackman may be referring to his difficulties with two of his largest investments: He resigned from the board of retailer J.C. Penney Co. this week after publicly calling for the ouster of its interim CEO and its chairman. He's also lost hundreds of millions of dollars shorting nutritional supplements company Herbalife, which he has called a pyramid scheme.

Ackman did address his feud with Carl Icahn over Herbalife, saying its an extension of a longtime dispute between the two. Icahn has invested heavily in Herbalife and has joined its board.

"He's used this Herbalife investment as a platform to 'get back at me,'" Ackman said. He said the company's stock price had gone up "simply because Carl Icahn and others have been promoting it."

Ackman also spoke about negative comments by his former friend, Third Point's Daniel Loeb, and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who called Ackman's push for Penney's CEO—and Starbucks board member—Myron Ullman's removal "despicable."

The hedge fund manager suggested that Schultz is a hypocrite, implying that he used similar tactics when he retook the reins at the coffee giant.

"I think he doesn't really understand the facts," Ackman said. "He's a good friend of Mike Ullman, who sits on the board. You know, the reality is Howard Schultz, when he brought in the new CEO—the board brought in Jim Donald to be CEO of Starbucks a number of years ago and things were going poorly. Howard Schultz wrote a memo to the board that was leaked to the press and it's not clear who leaked that memo to the press."

The reporter to whom the memo was leaked said after Ackman's inteview aired that she didn't get it from Schultz.

Of Loeb, Ackman said he was disappointed with the Third Point chief's own investment in Herbalife, a short-term long bet that proved quite profitable. Ackman admitted that it was a "good trade," but dodged a question about whether he respected Loeb.

"He has a good track record," Ackman said.


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