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Bill Ackman’s closed-end investment fund was at the mercy of fellow activist investor Paul Singer


Elliott Investment Management targeted Pershing Square Holdings in 2017, when Paul Singer’s firm privately tried to force fellow activist Bill Ackman to liquidate his listed company. 

Ackman disclosed the details of the battle around the fund publicly for the first time during a three-hour interview on the Lex Fridman Podcast. The billionaire posted the discussion on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, on Tuesday. 

Elliott took a big position in Pershing Square Holdings, a closed-end vehicle that traded at a discount to the value of its assets, while shorting the underlying securities held in the fund, Ackman said. It was a bet that the target would be forced to liquidate, allowing investors to profit from the shakeup.

“I envisioned an end where the permanent capital vehicle ends up getting liquidated and another activist in my industry puts me out of business,” Ackman said. 

Ackman managed to fend off Elliott by snapping up shares in his own company, effectively buying control, he said. He borrowed $300 million from JPMorgan Chase & Co., to help him to do this. 

“I give JPMorgan enormous credit in seeing through it,” Ackman said. “It’s a handshake bank and they bet I’d succeed.”

A representative for Elliott declined to comment. 

Activist campaigns in the market for closed-end funds have picked up in recent years. Firms including Boaz Weinstein’s Saba Capital Management have pounced on historical dislocations in these funds’ pricing and have urged asset managers to take steps like buying back shares or liquidating assets to boost valuations.

Pershing Square Holdings is listed on European stock exchanges with $14 billion plus total assets and returned 27% in 2023. While its net asset value discount has narrowed from 2020’s record level, it is still hovering around 27%. 

Earlier this month, Ackman said he plans to start a new fund with a similar structure called Pershing Square USA for retail investors.

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