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Bill Ackman: The fighter

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/By Orna Taub / 

William Albert (Bill) Ackman, founder and CEO of the Pershing Square Capital Management LP hedge fund.
In December 2007 his funds owned a 10% stake in the Target Corporation, which is valued at $4.2 billion, of which they currently own 7.8%. In December 2010, Ackman’s funds held a 38% stake in Borders Group. Among its other investments, Ackman’s firm holds a $1.8 billion stake in Canadian Pacific Railway, 18% of J.C. Penny and $1.3 billion in General Growth Partners.
Ackman (born May 11, 1966) was raised in a Jewish family in Chappaqua, New York.

His father, Lawrence Ackman is chairman of the Ackman-Ziff Real Estate group, a New York real estate financing group. In 1988, he received a BA, magna cum laude, from Harvard College, and in 1992, an MBA from Harvard Business School. He is married to Karen Ann Herskovitz, a landscape artist, currently a trustee of Human Rights Watch and a member of the board of Friends of the High Line – a public park on Manhattan’s West Side.

In 1992, Ackman founded Gotham Partners together with another Harvard graduate, David Berkowitz. They invested mainly in non-public trading companies and real estate, and by 1998 had over $500 million in assets.

Pershing Square Capital Management has recently invested in the McDonald’s Corporation, Wendy’s International Inc., General Growth Properties, the Borders Group, Fortune Brands and Ceridian Corp. Ackman usually establishes long-term positions in companies and attempts to enact change that will drive the stock price up (Investopedia, January 3, 2013).

In December 2012, Ackman presented a research report calling Herbalife a “pyramid scheme” and claimed that the stock is worth $0. He also disclosed that Pershing Square Capital Management had sold short the company’s shares, beginning May 2012. Herbalife has disputed Ackman’s thesis and conclusions.

Ackman is a signatory of Bill Gates’s The Giving Pledge, committing himself to give away at least 50% of his wealth to charitable causes. In 2006, Bill and Karen Ackman founded The Pershing Square Foundation to support innovation in the areas of economic development, education, healthcare, human rights, arts and urban development. Since it was founded, the Foundation has committed over $160 million in grants and social investments.

In 2011, the Ackmans were among The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Philanthropy 50 list of donors. Ackman’s contributions include $6.8 million to The Center for Jewish History, an institution dedicated to the preservation of Jewish genealogy, and $1.1 million to the Innocence Project in New York City and Centurion Ministries in Princeton, New Jersey – two groups dedicated to investigating the cases of people wrongfully convicted of a crime.

Recent Pershing Square Foundation grants include: $25 million to Signature Theater, a five-year, $10 million grant to Human Rights Watch, advocating new initiatives in its Africa and Women’s Rights divisions, $25 million to help improve the public-school system in Newark, grants totaling $6.5-million to the One Acre Fund, an NGO in Kenya, Rwanda, and Burundi that invests in farmers to generate a permanent gain in farm income, thus reducing poverty and hunger.



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