In front of hundreds of investors, the media, and curious observers, hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman teared up while speaking about his family and the American Dream on Tuesday.
It was just a small slice of his massive, three hour presentation on Herbalife, a multi-level marketing health company he started shorting to zero back in December of 2012.
Here’s what happened, from Business Insider’s Julia LaRoche, who has the whole run down of the presentation here:
It got emotional at the end when Ackman talked about the “American dream” his father and grandfather were fortunate to obtain when they came to the U.S.
“I’m a huge beneficiary of this country. Michael Johnson is a predator … It’s criminal. It’s time to shut [Herbalife] down,” Ackman said choking up.
“The American dream has been tarnished in a lot of different ways…but when you have a New York Stock Exchange company specifically targeting people and using the American Dream principles … they sell the American dream. It’s criminal. Unfortunately, it’s taking the regulators too long.”
As he spoke, Herbalife stocked surged up to 18%. We are not certain whether or not he was aware of that.
This is not the first time we’ve seen Ackman on (the verge?) of tears. He’s known for getting emotionally invested in his trades having once visibly choked up at a Target shareholder meeting in 2009. He eventually gave up his position in the company.
The New York Times’ Joe Nocera was there, and here’s what he said about the incident:
I’ve seen my share of odd moments during annual meetings, but until Thursday I’d never seen a grown man cry during one. O.K., maybe “cry” is a bit of an overstatement for what happened. Still, it was pretty startling when, in the middle of his speech to Target Corporation shareholders, William A. Ackman, the hedge fund manager who had waged an expensive, high-profile proxy fight against the company, suddenly choked up and stopped speaking. He wiped away a tear.
Ackman explained why he got so worked up a week later saying that as he spoke he started thinking of a famous John F Kennedy speech. “The tear was not for the loss of a proxy contest as Mr. Nocera implies, but rather in recognition of the significance of JFK’s words nearly 50 years ago,” he said.
All this takes us back to the beginning of this whole Herbalife debacle. A few months after Ackman started shorting the stock, he got in an argument with Carl Icahn live on CNBC. Icahn had bought the stock, putting Ackman in a short squeeze.
“I’m telling you he’s like a crybaby in the schoolyard. I went to a tough school in Queens, you know, and they used to beat up the little Jewish boys. He was like one of the little Jewish boys crying …”
Harsh words on Wall Street, where the motto is “eat what you kill,” not “cry til someone feeds you.” The two have made up since, and hugged on stage at CNBC’s Delivering Alpha conference last week.
Still… makes you wonder who bought up all that Herbalife stock while Ackman was talking though.