Icahn: I Believe In Herbalife, Squeezing Ackman Is A Bonus

On Wednesday, Bill Ackman thanked fellow hedge fund managers Daniel Loeb and Carl Icahn for bringing more attention to Herbalife by going against his massive short position in the multi-level marketing firm.

Icahn returned the favor on CNBC Friday, a day after disclosing a big bet on the company’s shares.

Ackman “gave us a hell of an opportunity by bashing it,” said Icahn, who holds stock and options that give him the equivalent of a 13% stake in Herbalife.

Icahn took his shots — “I don’t like Ackman, everybody knows that,” he said, “I don’t respect him” — but stressed that he hasn’t built his fortune by letting personal feelings drive his investment decisions.

“The fact that I don’t like Ackman you can say is the strawberry on the ice cream, but this is not done to squeeze Ackman or squeeze anybody,” he said. The big short position, thanks in large part to Ackman’s $1 billion bet, is something that made Herbalife “more enticing” to Icahn, but he also thinks the business is a high growth business with a good value that would be a “quintessential” example of a leveraged buyout candidate.

“This company is what it was before Ackman decided to go on this rampage and tell everyone it’s terrible,” Icahn said.

“I can’t say if Ackman gets squeezed I’ll feel very sorry and go cry and do penance, but I’m doing this to make money, that’s what I do,” he added, though he refused to go into much detail regarding the work his team has done to give him such confidence in Herbalife.

He did say he would like to hear from the Sullivan & Cromwell lawyers who Ackman says have told Pershing Square they are confident Herbalife is a pyramid scheme.

“If somebody wants to live by the sword, hey, the old saying, you die by the sword,” said Icahn.

In a statement Friday morning responding to Icahn’s filing and before his CNBC appearance, Ackman said his firm’s ” conclusions are unaffected by who is on the other side of the investment.  Our goal was to shine a spotlight on Herbalife.  To the extent that Mr. Icahn is helping achieve this objective, we welcome his involvement.”

Herbalife shares, which shot up more than 20% on Icahn’s disclosure Thursday, surrendered much of its advance Friday. Shortly after 1 p.m. the stock was up 6.8% at $40.88.

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