Pershing Square Capital Management was founded in 2004 by William (Bill) Ackman, with personal funds and assistance from his former business partner Leucadia National. Ackman built a reputation for making interesting hiring decisions through onboarding new employees who had no prior financial background. One of his most well-known hires was a man Ackman "met in the back of a cab."
In 2014 Pershing Square launched its UK-based closed-end fund, Pershing Square Holdings, on the London Stock Exchange.
Pershing Square Capital Management has invested in multiple industries and has also launched activist campaigns against three major organizations, including Wendy's, McDonald's, and most prominently Herbalife.
In 2005, Pershing Square purchased a significant amount of shares in the fast-food chain Wendy's International and eventually pressured the company to sell its subsidiary Tim Horton's, a prominent doughnut and coffee chain. In 2006 Wendy's successfully spun off Tim Horton's through an IPO, raising a total of $670 million for Wendy's investors. After a dispute regarding executive succession, Ackman sold the Pershing-owned Wendy's shares, causing the stock price to collapse, leaving the company in a weaker stock position.
In December of 2007, Pershing owned a 10% share of the Target Corporation, which was valued at $4.2 billion. As of 2017, Pershing still owned a 7.8% stake in the company. In December of 2010, Pershing maintained a 38% stake in Borders Group, a national book and music retailer, and on December 6, 2010, Ackman stated he would finance a buyout of Barnes and Nobel for $900 million.
In January of 2009, Pershing Square announced a 7.4% stake of ownership in General Growth Properties (GGP) in documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which made Pershing the second-largest shareholder in the company behind Brookfield Asset Management. Pershing had made bets against the company, assuming it would file for bankruptcy. In November of 2010, Pershing assisted GGP in emerging from its Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
In March of 2016, Ackman joined the Valeant Pharmaceutical International company board. However, Valeant reported major losses at the end of quarter one in 2016, which played a large role in Pershing's largest-ever quarterly loss of 25% of funds invested. Ackman commented on Valeant's 88% loss since August of 2015 but remained confident that a long-term investment would return the funds. However, after a controversial report of drug prices and concerning operations became public regarding the company, Ackman sold all of Pershing's 9% stake in Valeant, accepting a total loss of $4 billion.
In September of 2016, Pershing Square purchased a 9.9% stake in Chipotle Mexican Grill. By March of 2018, the fund owned 10.3% after Ackman invested $500 million into the publicly traded arm while the stock was valued at approximately $15 per share, by September 2019, Chipotle stock had a return of 54.5% with shares priced at $19.10 per share.
In December of 2012, Bill Ackman announced that Pershing Square had made a short bet against Herbalife, a global company for weight-loss and vitamin supplements. Ackman publicly referred to the company as a "pyramid scheme." In January of 2013, Carl Ichan bought a stake in the company, triggering a stock price rise of 13%. The investment was criticized by analysts as the firm's worst investment of all time. Ackman and Pershing Square launched a grassroots activism campaign against Herbalife, eventually leading the Federal Trade Commission to open an investigation which caused the company's shares to drop; at this point, Pershing was nearly even on its short bet. In April of 2014, Reuters reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had done an investigation into Herbalife and its former distributors.
By March of 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Dale Fischer dismissed a suit filed by Herbalife investors that alleged the company was operating as an illegal pyramid scheme.
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