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Scott Wapner's 'When The Wolves Bite' Tells The Inside Story Of The Ackman-Icahn-Herbalife Feud

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Scott Wapner's 'When The Wolves Bite' Tells The Inside Story Of The Ackman-Icahn-Herbalife Feud
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It’s been a little over five years since arguably the greatest moment in CNBC's history: the uninterrupted 27-minute back-and-forth between Carl Icahn and Bill Ackman on "Fast Money Halftime."

At the center of the argument was whether nutritional supplement company Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE: HLF) was a legitimate business — as Icahn insisted — or a multilevel marketing scheme that should be shut down, as Ackman claimed.

The segment was so good and so bizarre in its tangents that it became known affectionately on Wall Street as “The Brawl.” Google “CNBC brawl” and it’s result No. 1.

The on-air confrontation was merely the tip of the iceberg. The battle over Herbalife between Ackman and Icahn raged for five years, and the personal battle between the two for a decade longer. It involved billions of dollars, thousands of man hours and a half dozen of the biggest hedge fund managers on Wall Street.

A Clash Between Wall Street Heavyweights 

This story is the subject of Scott Wapner’s new book "When The Wolves Bite," which was released Tuesday. Wapner was the host Jan. 25, 2013 on "Fast Money Halftime," and the de-facto referee between two of Wall Street’s biggest heavyweights.

“I was kind of shell-shocked when it was over,” Wapner told Benzinga of The Brawl. “We had this great moment [and] I was hoping that I handled it well. I kept remembering, 'don’t try and be part of the story. Those guys are the story. Let it play out, don’t lose your cool.’”

"When The Wolves Bite" tells the inside story of, among other things, how Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management came to be short Herbalife, how Carl Icahn ended up on the other side of the trade and the lengths Herbalife’s executives went to defend themselves. It also explores the complicated Ackman-Icahn relationship, which dates to 2003 and a trade over financial services firm MBIA.

Among the stranger twists in the book is the revelation that Herbalife executives paid a former FBI profiler for a psychoanalysis of Ackman.

“Short sellers are nothing new, but this was such an extraordinary case, and it drew so many media headlines and really mushroomed into this epic thing, that Herbalife had to do unconventional things to try and figure out who they were dealing with and how to better deal with them,” Wapner said.

“And the FBI profile is a perfect example of that. I don’t know that you’ll see that ever again. But it was incredible that they were willing to spend $100,000, as I say in the book, to have one of the nation’s foremost forensic psychologists come up with a profile of this guy. You’re talking about a guy who does this for the FBI for serial killers and school shooters, and here they are doing a forensic examination of Bill Ackman, of all people.”

'The Opportunity ... To Mess With Ackman A Bit'

The Ackman-Icahn-Herbalife feud grabbed so many headlines that it’s easy to forget the other players involved, from Dan Loeb, to David Einhorn to George Soros. All make cameo appearances in Wapner's book.

“It wasn’t that Herbalife was so much of a draw, as much as Bill Ackman was for a few of these people,” said Wapner. “I think they looked at the opportunity to make some money and, for some of them at least, at the same time to mess with Ackman a bit. I think that became a thing for a while.”

History will note that Icahn got the better of this round. HLF more than doubled in the five years Ackman bet against the stock, going from $45 in 2012 to $93 when he reportedly unwound his position this past February. But there was a whole lot more to what could down as the greatest feud in Wall Street history.

Listen to Benzinga’s full interview with Wapner below.

Screenshot from CNBC. 

Related Links:

Bill Ackman Defends Another Down Year For Pershing Square

Icahn Sells Federal-Mogul; Tenneco To Create Two Public Companies 

Posted-In: Bill AckmanShort Sellers Hedge Funds Movers & Shakers Top Stories Reviews Interview General Best of Benzinga

 

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