In the movie Wall Street, Michael Douglas made famous the character Gordon Gekko. The character was famous for his callousness, wealth, and ice cold heart, but he was most famous for his greed.
The most famous monologue in the movie is known as the “Greed Is Good” speech. Watch it here if you’ve never seen it.
Gordon Geckko was known for the hostile takeover. He would take over a struggling company under the auspices that he was going to rebuild it to former glory, only dismantle it and sell off the pieces for immense profits leaving nothing left of a once great company. He banked on destroying companies.
I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them! The point is ladies and gentlemen, is that, for lack of a better word, greed, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed in all of its forms, greed for life, greed for money, love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA!
I’m not sure if Bill Ackman, head of the Pershing Square hedge fund, is modeling his life after Gordon Gekko, but it wouldn’t be hard to believe. Gekko’s speech to shareholders was a lie. A long con. Designed to get them to buy into letting him takeover a company and dismantle it for billions. Gekko and Ackman are Wall Street destroyers.
What do they build? What do they create? Puts and calls. Shorts and longs. Dollar signs and lots and lots of zeros, but no product, no dreams, no people who matter.
Herbalife is not a bunch of vitamins and shakes. It’s a company made up of human beings. Thousands of them. They love their jobs at the company. The distributers voluntarily sell the products from the kitchen tables because they believe in the products and they dream of a better life. Whether it is a little extra cash to send a kid to college or thousands a year to bring a spouse home from a 9 to 5 job they hate. Herbalife is America.
Ackman is an opportunist. He is so good at it that he creates his own opportunities. Ackman announced the demise of Herbalife with his own version of the Greed is Good speech, lasting more than 3-hours. Pershing Square hedge fund took a public billion-dollar short position in the company Hebalife. The world was in awe. No one had ever done that. Literally bet billions on the demise of a company. How much hate or greed does it take to do that?
To read the gory details of just what Bill Gekko…I mean Bill Ackman did, read this piece titled, The Siege of Herbalife, from Fortune Magazine.
Guess what? The speech didn’t work.
The CEO of Herbalife, Michael Johnson, didn’t go fetal position in the corner and cry in his health shake. No. Turns out, he’s a fighter and would not go quietly into the good night. He fought back and, while Herbalife took a big hit, it didn’t go to zero as Ackman had orchestrated and hoped.
Herbalife actually streamlined its business, made double sure everything they did was legal, and kept on producing a quality product, giving many Americans something Ackman knows nothing about - hope.
Billionaire Bill Ackman didn’t get his way. Herbalife wouldn’t die. So what is a powerful tycoon to do when that happens? Turn to government of course. What better way to win than to climb in bed with some politicians and legislate your way to victory?
The New York Times reported in 2014 that Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA) helped spearhead a massive lobbying and public relations effort to crush Herbalife by using the Federal Trade Commission conveniently calling it an “investigation” at the behest of Ackman, when the term “witch hunt” would have been more applicable. It’s all in who you know and guys like Ackman and Gekko know all the right politicians. It’s not so important if they have an R or a D behind their name. It’s much more important if they play ball.
Ackman and his powerful hedge fund are allowed to make billions in America. It’s just goes off the tracks when to make those billions they set out to absolutely destroy a viable company through the use of crony capitalism and a corrupt government.
If anyone needs to change their business model, then it is Bill Ackman.