After a pair of “disastrous” bets on drug company Valeant and supplement company Herbalife, once “omnipresent rabble-rouser” shareholder activist William Ackman is getting back to basics and a more low-profile existence. This according to an article in The Wall Street Journal.
The article reports that Ackman “has told his investors he is avoiding hard-to-understand companies, staying out of the media spotlight and returning to the basics of investment analysis that first catapulted him to success.” His private fund has reportedly shrunk by about $9 billion since its 2015 peak, and the article says he is adopting a more “Zen-like approach that allows for more days spent in his Manhattan office” to focus on his publicly traded vehicle Pershing Square Holdings Ltd.
“So far,” the article says, “the approach seems to be working, with the public fund up 31.9% this year.” Pershing Square’s total assets have fallen to about $8.3 billion, with the private fund suffering an investor exodus that took it from a high of $12 billion to its current level of about $2.5 billion. But according to Ackman, redemptions “appear to have slowed and he plans to maintain the fund until no investors remain, or it becomes too costly.”
The article cites a comment from one Pershing Square investor regarding Ackman’s current approach: “There are no wild bets anymore. It’s no longer a four bagger or a zero.” While encouraging, the investor argued that a wait-and-see approach is warranted.