William A. Ackman

William Albert Ackman (born May 11, 1966), is an American hedge-fund manager. He is the founder and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management LP, a hedge-fund management company. Ackman is considered a contrarian investor but he considers himself an activist investor.


In 1988, he received a bachelor of arts degree magna cum laude in history from Harvard College. His thesis was "Scaling the Ivy Wall: the Jewish and Asian American Experience in Harvard Admissions." In 1992, he received an MBA from Harvard Business School.


In 2004, with $54 million in funding from his personal funds and from his former business partner, Leucadia National, Ackman started Pershing Square Capital Management.

In 2005, Pershing bought a significant share in the fast food chain Wendy's International and successfully pressured it to sell its Tim Hortons doughnut chain. Wendy's spun off Tim Hortons through an IPO in 2006 and raised $670 million for Wendy's investors. After Ackman sold his shares at a substantial profit after a dispute over executive succession, the stock price collapsed, raising criticism that the sale of Wendy's fastest-growing unit left the company in a weaker market position. Ackman blamed the poor performance on their new CEO.

Pershire Square Holdings amounted to 22.2% in annualized returns since inception (Dec. 2012 – Dec. 2015) under Ackman’s management. The firm posted strong returns in 2014, by returning 50.6% gross return for the year. The fund, however, underperformed for the year of 2015, as they posted a return of -20.5% net of all fees at the end of the year.

In December 2007 his funds owned a 10% stake in Target Corporation, valued at $4.2 billion through the purchase of stock and derivatives. In December 2010, his funds held a 38% stake in Borders Group and on December 6, 2010, Ackman indicated he would finance a buyout of Barnes & Noble for US$900M. He also won a shareholder proxy battle for Canadian Pacific Railway.

Ackman is known to occasionally hire people outside of traditional finance backgrounds; for example, his professionals have included a former fly fishing guide, a former tennis pro and "a man whom he met in a cab."

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" What the market tells you in the short term is what a certain subset of people believe. That doesn’t mean they’re right. "

"We’ve heard a lot of discussion about how institutions and individuals use index funds..But to the extent that more and more capital becomes indexed — and if you think about index fund managers as really being a computer, then in terms of the voting of shares for instance — the more stock that is held by people who don’t care about individual corporations, the more there is a significant societal detriment to have capital in the hands of people who are just seeking average performance. The result is that the more capital that is indexed, the more it inflates the prices of companies in the S&P and leads to poor capital allocation and maybe detrimental owner performance over time because some companies get more capital than they deserve.”