Veteran activist investor Carl Icahn has sold more than half his stake in Herbalife Nutrition more than seven years after first investing in the dietary supplements developer. 

Herbalife announced on Jan. 3 that it will repurchase approximately $600 million of its stock from Icahn at a purchase price of $48.05 a share. Following the transaction, Icahn’s 16% stake in the company will decrease to a 6% holding worth nearly $400 million.

Icahn first invested in Herbalife between Dec. 2012 and Feb. 2013, purchasing nearly 13% of the company’s stock at a purchase price of between $6.93 and $39.96. Since then, the investor has made over $1 billion in his investment.

Since Icahn’s holdings will go below a level stipulated in an agreement he has with Herbalife, Icahn’s five director appointees will resign from the company’s board, Herbalife said. Icahn’s board representatives include former deputies Jonathan Christodoro and Nicholas Graziano, and longtime general counsel Jesse Lynn.

Herbalife said it will pay for the stock repurchase with cash on hand and its existing credit facility. The deal is part of the company’s $1.5 billion share buyback program announced in 2018.

“Our decision to repurchase these shares is a testament to the strength of our business and our long-term growth prospects,” Herbalife Chairman and CEO John Agwunobi said in a statement. “I am grateful to Carl for his friendship, advice and support and deeply appreciate his unwavering faith in our company, our products and our distributors. He was certainly there when we needed him.”

An unwavering commitment

Icahn’s investment in Herbalife came as fellow activist investor Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management launched a short campaign against the nutrition company, calling its multi-level marketing business model a pyramid scheme. Nonetheless, Icahn defended the company, even as it faced challenges from regulators.  

Ackman eventually ended his five-year bet against the stock, losing $1 billion in the process. 

Herbalife’s share price gained nearly 97% over the past five years, though it was relatively flat in 2020. The company in November reported better-than-expected third-quarter earnings and said it expects fourth-quarter sales to rise by 10% to 20% year-over-year. 

Icahn agreed to sell his shares to the company because he sees no need for additional activism at Herbalife.

“When I began purchasing the shares, I believed it was undervalued for extraneous reasons that I thought made little sense. At the time, I believed the company was in need of an activist and that certainly turned out to be correct,” Icahn said. “Yet, the time for activism has passed as the company has grown... That being said... I look forward to remaining a shareholder of the company.”

In addition to Icahn, top shareholders of Herbalife include Capital Research Global Investors, Renaissance Technologies, and HBL Swiss Services.