Ackman Is Abandoned by Big Pershing Square Investors

Updated on
  • Institutional funds withdrew two-thirds of cash allowed in 17
  • Blackstone redeeming money; JPMorgan not recommending the fund
Erik Schatzker reports on the latest surrounding investor withdrawals from Pershing Square Capital Management.

Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management is facing more bad news as many of the institutional investors in its private funds have asked to redeem their money.

About two-thirds of the capital that investors could withdraw from Pershing Square private funds was redeemed at the end of last year, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Blackstone Group LP has been pulling its money, while JPMorgan Chase & Co. has removed Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square from its list of recommended funds for clients, the person said.

Under the funds’ rules, investors are only able to redeem one eighth of their investment each quarter, meaning it could take more than two years to withdraw all of their money. Still, there’s been a steady decline in assets under management at Pershing Square since its $4 billion loss on Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. and its losing short bet on Herbalife Ltd.

At the end of March, Pershing Square’s total assets under management sat at about $8.2 billion, down from about $18.3 billion in 2015. The redemptions are coming from a pool of capital that includes Pershing Square’s private and employee funds, which made up about $3.8 billion of its overall AUM at the end of March, according to a portfolio update at that time.
Last year was a particularly tough one for Ackman as his investment in Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. continued to suffer setbacks. He also lost a high-profile proxy fight at outsourcing company Automatic Data Processing Inc., although he later took advantage of a jump in ADP’s share price to sell shares worth about $125 million at a profit.

The bumps have continued into 2018, as Ackman finally admitted defeat in his epic battle with fellow billionaire investor Carl Icahn over his $1 billion short position in Herbalife. Pershing Square Holdings Ltd., the U.K.-listed arm, said its investments are down a further 8.6 percent year to date.

It’s not all been bad. A recent passive investment in sportswear maker Nike Inc. returned about $100 million to the fund in profit before it was sold.

‘Particularly Unsatisfactory’

In a letter to investors published last month, Ackman pledged to end three years of underperformance, calling recent returns “particularly unsatisfactory.” Pershing Square has been restructuring into a smaller, investment-centric organization whose future asset growth will be driven by results, the billionaire investor wrote.

The firm has also cut staff numbers and freed up Ackman to focus more fully on money management by having partner Ben Hakim interface with investors.

Fund redemptions are not isolated to Ackman alone. Several hedge funds -- particularly the poorer performers -- are suffering redemptions as investors move to cheaper passive products. Jana Partners, the activist fund run by Barry Rosenstein, has seen assets under management fall by more than half over the past two years to about $4 billion at the end of March, according to investor letter this week.

Blackstone’s hedge fund unit, which has been reducing its investment in Pershing Square, has done so as part of a broader change in how it allocates investments and not as a specific response to any one manager, according to a person familiar with its investing strategy.

Representatives for Blackstone, JPMorgan and Pershing Square declined to comment. The Wall Street Journal reported the news of the redemptions earlier, citing people it didn’t identify.

— With assistance by David Carey, Sonali Basak, and Katia Porzecanski

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