Last night Charlie Rose interviewed Bill Ackman of Pershing Square after he has resigned from the board after unsuccessfully pushing for yet another new CEO. They talked about his past and present positions in JC Penney, Herbalife, General Growth, CP Rail, Target, MBIA, the present problems plaguing him and future business prospects. Ackman commented on the on going feud between him and Carl Icahn, stating he is “Getting back at me” from a prior dispute over collecting money owed to him by Mr. Icahn that he eventually sued for. He also said to Charlie, “Look at our history over 10-years, I am not actually use to getting in disputes with people.” Bill’s view on Dan Loeb’s position was that it may have been a good trade but “I am not a trader” Bill told Charlie.
When talking about JCP and Ron Johnston’s mistakes he seemed composed and collected citing JC Penney real estate assets (over 1100 stores) as valuable, as well as the brand. Bill was a little perplexed explaining why JC Penney is once again pursuing a discount strategy stating “People would rather a $100 item at a 50% discount than an item marked at $40, a surprising psychology phenomenon.”
Between both his JC Penney long position and Herbalife short position, Bill Ackman has paper losses close to 1 billion. He sounded optimistic telling Charlie, “It sounds like the government is looking into product quality issues in Herbalife.” Although Bill is known to be very disciplined reflecting back on his MBIA short position that was held for over a 7 year period viewing his articulations as a warning sign for investors. “Short sellers are the canary in the coal mine,” he said.