Bill Ackman Almost Lost His Bar Mitzvah Money Betting On The SATs

Marius Adamski Pershing Square Capital Management Bill Ackman Jeffrey Sloves JonesTrading Institutional Services

Photo: Courtesy of Bloomberg

It takes some serious stones to tell the world you think a company’s stock is going to zero.That’s probably why Vanity Fair has an awesome piece coming out next month about Bill Ackman and, more importantly, his confidence.

The story is called “The Big Short War” (by William Cohan) and it opens with an anecdote about Ackman’s first big bet. He was in high school and he bet his father all his Bar Mitzvah money (kudos to him for still having it) that he could get a perfect score on the verbal.

From Vanity Fair:

In 1984, when he was a junior at Horace Greeley High School, in affluent Chappaqua, New York, he wagered his father $2,000 that he would score a perfect 800 on the verbal section of the S.A.T. The gamble was everything Ackman had saved up from his Bar Mitzvah gift money and his allowance for doing household chores. “I was a little bit of a cocky kid,” he admits, with uncharacteristic understatement.

Tall, athletic, handsome with cerulean eyes, he was the kind of hyper-ambitious kid other kids loved to hate and just the type to make a big wager with no margin for error. But on the night before the S.A.T., his father took pity on him and canceled the bet. “I would’ve lost it,” Ackman concedes. He got a 780 on the verbal and a 750 on the maths. “One wrong on the verbal, three wrong on the maths,” he muses. “I’m still convinced some of the questions were wrong.”

We’ve already forgotten our SAT scores. Willingly.

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