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Bill Ackman: The Hedge Fund Manager Who Made Billions

May 11, 1966:

  • William Albert Ackman is born in Chappaqua, New York.


  • Ackman graduates from Harvard University with a degree in economics.


  • Ackman joins Goldman Sachs as an investment banker.


  • Ackman leaves Goldman Sachs to start his own hedge fund, Gotham Partners, with $3 million in capital.


  • Gotham Partners loses 40% of its value due to a bad bet on the telecom industry.


  • Ackman launches Pershing Square Capital Management, a hedge fund management company based in New York City.


  • Ackman becomes widely known for his high-profile battle with the management of Target Corporation. He acquires a stake in the company and pushes for changes to maximize shareholder value.


  • During the financial crisis, Ackman bets against the bond insurers MBIA and Ambac, predicting their downfall. This bet ultimately proves successful, earning Ackman’s fund billions of dollars in profits.


  • Ackman takes a significant stake in J.C. Penney and becomes its largest shareholder. He attempts to implement major changes in the company’s strategy and leadership, but his efforts fail, resulting in substantial losses for his fund.


  • Ackman becomes involved in a highly publicized short-selling campaign against Herbalife, a multi-level marketing company. He accuses Herbalife of being a pyramid scheme and places a billion-dollar bet against the company’s stock.


  • Ackman exits his short position on Herbalife, admitting that the campaign was not as successful as he initially anticipated. The bet resulted in significant losses for his fund.


  • Ackman gains attention for his early warning about the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a series of interviews, he expresses his concerns about the virus and calls for a nationwide shutdown.


  • Pershing Square Capital Management launches a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) called Pershing Square Tontine Holdings (PSTH). The SPAC raises $4 billion, making it the largest-ever IPO of a SPAC at the time.


  • PSTH fails to complete a merger deal within its two-year deadline, resulting in the dissolution of the SPAC. Ackman announces plans to launch a new SPAC in the future.


  • Ackman advocates for Universal Music Group (UMG), a division of Vivendi, to go public. Pershing Square Tontine Holdings II (PSTH II), Ackman’s new SPAC, agrees to merge with UMG, valuing the music label at around $40 billion.


  • The merger between PSTH II and Universal Music Group is completed, and UMG starts trading on the Amsterdam Euronext stock exchange.

Interesting facts

Ackman is known for his activist investing approach, often taking significant stakes in companies and pushing for changes to increase shareholder value.

He has been involved in several high-profile battles with company management and has made large bets on both long and short positions.

Ackman is a prominent philanthropist. In 2016, he signed the Giving Pledge, committing to donate the majority of his wealth to charitable causes.

He is a well-known advocate for education reform and has supported various organizations focused on improving public schools.

Ackman has a background in real estate and initially worked at his father’s company before venturing into the world of finance.