Billionaire Bill Ackman Dumps Herbalife, Ending 5-Year War Betting Against It

Billionaire Bill Ackman's hedge fund, Pershing Square Capital, exited Herbalife (HLF), ending an epic five-year, $1 billion bet its stock price would crash to zero.

Ackman told CNBC Wednesday that he had dumped Herbalife, a company he once slammed as a crooked pyramid scheme.

The nutritional supplement maker's stock soared 6.3% to $92.10 a share on the news, on monster volume of 6.38 million shares. Average daily trading volume is about 1 million.

The activist investor launched his crusade against Herbalife in 2012, when he placed a massive bet against it. At the time, Herbalife stock plunged 20% in three days before eventually rebounding.

Ackman had expected the stock to tank further over time, enabling him to make a windfall through a short sale. But the strategy backfired after his nemesis, billionaire Carl Icahn, took the opposite position against Ackman, eventually building up his stake in Herbalife to 26%.

In November 2017, Herbalife's stock skyrocketed 51% for the year, forcing Ackman to change his approach. He closed out his short position and converted it a put position.

Now, just three months later, Ackman's Pershing Square has dumped all the stock after realizing that sometimes you just have to cut your losses. 

Battle of the Titans

In 2013, Bill Ackman got into an unforgettable smackdown over Herbalife with Carl Icahn on live TV.

While Ackman was doing an interview with CNBC, Icahn called in to the show and blasted Ackman as a "liar" and a "crybaby" (see highlight video below).

Icahn complained to the CNBC host: "I've about had it with this guy. He's like the crybaby in the schoolyard."

Ackman, whose net worth tops $1 billion, retorted: "Carl, you think I want to invest with you?"

Icahn (net worth: $17 billion) shot back: "I wouldn't invest with you if you were the last man on Earth!"

At another point Ackman remarked: "This is not an honest guy, and this is not a guy who keeps his word. This is a guy who takes advantage of little people."

Icahn spat back: "I appreciate, Bill, that you called me a great investor. I thank you for that. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for you."

Ackman and Icahn, a longtime friend of President Donald Trump, buried the hatchet in 2014. 

With a 26% stake, Carl Icahn remains Herbalife's largest shareholder. According to TheStreet, Icahn has made almost $1 billion profit from his investment.

Meanwhile, Ackman has lost close to $1 billion on Herbalife. In this billionaire brawl, Icahn clearly came out the winner—at least in this round. Stay tuned. 

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