Activist investors are often cast as villains: money-grabbing nuisances who harass chief executives for payouts and short-term gains.
But in some of the industry’s training grounds — business schools — activist investors are being recast and embraced.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the moniker of activist investor is becoming coveted by some business school students — especially in today’s job climate where investment banking is losing its appeal.
And some universities are encouraging the shift, Lindsay Gellman and Liz Hoffman report.
In part due to student demand, schools such as Columbia University’s Business School are inviting more activist investors to speak on campus: Daniel Loeb of Third Point LLC and David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital Inc. have both visited Stanford University and Columbia.
Bill Ackman-run Pershing Square Capital Management LP, whose activist targets include Allergan Inc. and Zoetis Inc., has taken on an even more active role in recruiting business school grads.
The hedge fund runs an annual competition with Columbia, asking students to create the an activist thesis to improve a public company’s operations. The winners this year won a private dinner with Bill Ackman in May.
Though many professors say schools are ushering in the future of investing, are schools glamorizing a “destructive process”?
According to a Cornell Law School professor of corporate and business law, Lynn Stout, yes.
“There’s plenty of evidence to support the view that activism does far more harm than good,” she told the newspaper.
But numbers from the past few years show that these hedge funds have been growing, and are likely here to stay. Since 2009, the number of activist campaigns has risen 63 per cent, the Journal reported, pulling numbers from FactSet.
So step aside Warren Buffett. The new generation idolizes Bill Ackman.
Read the full Wall Street Journal article here.