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Herbalife: Pyramid Scheme or Juggernaut? CEO Michael Johnson Fights Back

Whether it’s a pyramid scheme or a defamed company, Michael Johnson still has to run it
Herbalife: Pyramid Scheme or Juggernaut? CEO Michael Johnson Fights Back
Photograph by Travis Rathbone for Bloomberg Businessweek

On Christmas Eve last year, Herbalife Chief Executive Officer Michael Johnson’s mobile phone rang as he was walking into church. It wasn’t Santa Claus. It was Carl Icahn, who was in the first stages of building a stake in Herbalife, which had just been called a pyramid scheme by billionaire hedge fund activist Bill Ackman. The stock had plunged, and the sharks were circling. “He was feeling us out. He was kind of poking me,” Johnson says.

“For guys like that, trouble is opportunity.”