Ackman Sees Activist Wave In Europe

Oct 30 2013 | 11:47am ET

Europe will catch up with the U.S. in terms of shareholder activism, one of the U.S.'s most prominent shareholder activists said.

Pershing Square Capital Management's William Ackman told an audience at Oxford University's Said Business School that shareholder activism in Europe is about 10 years behind the U.S., where he said corporate boards are more open to suggestions from investors. But that is destined to change, as pensioners seeking better returns "drive shareholder-run activism."

"I think it's going to happen," Ackman said.

Ackman, whose Pershing Square Foundation has endowed scholarships to the Said school, also touched on his two most controversial investments during his speech, nutritional supplements company Herbalife and retailer J.C. Penney Co.

The hedge fund manager said he still believed that Herbalife was a pyramid scheme and "will be shut down" or "collapse." Herbalife this week announced its 16th-straight quarterly profit growth.

And despite losing $500 million on his Penney's investment, Ackman was no less confident, saying that his plans to turn the company around were "right"—although the execution could have been better. Ackman said he was hampered by an uncooperative board, and that the experience taught him not to "go on a board and have one of 11 seats."

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