Bill Ackman is the founder and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, an activist hedge fund founded in 2004. Bill Ackman has publicly launched activism campaigns including Wendy’s, Herbalife, JC Penny, Valeant, and many others. He has come under significant media scrutiny over his activism campaigns, particularly with his short position on Herbalife and his public feud with Carl Icahn who was long Herbalife.
Bill Ackman founded Gotham Partners, an investment fund, with his classmate from HBS, David Berkowitz in 1992. Gotham Partners grew from $3 million in AUM to $500 million by 1998 – investors included Seth Klarman, Michael Steinhardt, and Whitney Tilson. After a judge struck down the merger of Gotham’s golf course operator which had massive debt with a cash-flush real estate company, First Union Real Estate Equity & Mortgage Investments, investors sought redemption and Gotham Partners wound down in 2002. In 2004, Bill Ackman founded Pershing Square and in 2014, secured roughly $3 billion of permanent capital via an Amsterdam IPO.
Pershing Square started with $54 million in funding from Bill Ackman’s personal funds and from his former business partner Leucadia National. As of May 2016, Pershing Square had a total AUM of $12.3 billion.
Bill Ackman was born in Chappaqua, New York in 1966. His father, Lawrence Ackman, is the founder of Ackman-Ziff Real Estate group. Bill Ackman graduated from Horace Greeley High School and earned his B.A. magna cum laude in history from Harvard College in 1988. His honors thesis was “Scaling the Ivy Wall: the Jewish and Asian American Experience in Harvard Admissions”. Bill Ackman also earned his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1992.
Bill Ackman was #321 of Forbes 400 in 2016 with an estimated net worth of $1.65 billion. He is a signatory of The Giving Pledge, committing to give at least 50% of his wealth to charitable causes. Bill Ackman married Karen Herskovitz, a graduate of Vassar College (B.A.) and Harvard University (M.L.A.) and a landscape architect in 1994. Karen Herskovitz sits on the board of directors of Human Rights Watch and Friends of the High Line. They have three daughters together. According to various media sources in December 2016, Bill Ackman and Karen Herskovitz are reportedly getting a divorce. Bill Ackman owns a number of high-end properties including a penthouse at One57 which is nicknamed as “The Billionaire Building” for which he paid $91.5 million and two properties in Bridgehampton, NY for which he paid $22 million and $23.5 million each.