Bill Ackman says he'll give NYU $1 million if Wall Street lawyer Marty Lipton debates him on activist investing

Bill ackmanREUTERS/Eduardo MunozWilliam Ackman

Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman told Vanity Fair contributing editor William Cohan that he’d give $US1 million to NYU if famed Wall Street lawyer Marty Lipton would debate him on the topic of activist investing.

Lipton — a legendary dealmaker and the founder of law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz — has been a major critic of activist investors, slamming them for being in it it for a short-term gain.

Ackman, of course, disagrees with Lipton on this.

From Vanity Fair:

Last October, at a conference at the Plaza Hotel in New York, Lipton gave a speech titled “Activist Interventions and the Destruction of Long-Term Value.” Ackman was sitting in one of the front rows. Ackman has said he would like to debate the issue with Lipton in front of a live audience. But so far, Lipton has demurred. “There is no way on earth I would debate Mr. Ackman,” Lipton told Bloomberg, in January. “You know how I feel about him. It would be beneath me.” …

Ackman takes the bait. “I would give a donation to N.Y.U.,” he says. “You can offer him this one: I’ll give a million dollars to N.Y.U. O.K.? Either he has to make a donation to the charity of my choice or I make a donation to the charity of his choice if we have a real debate on the topic and the audience votes and whoever wins, wins. How’s that?” I offer to moderate.

Ackman, who runs $US20 billion hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management, had huge gains in 2014, netting 40% for the year, according to the fund’s performance report.

He’s known for being primarily a long-only activist investor, taking large positions in a handful of companies and advocating for change from management.

However, Ackman’s most famous position right now might be his short bet against Herbalife — a multilevel marketing company that sells weight loss shakes that he believes operates a “pyramid scheme” and will go to $US0.

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