Live at 10: Ackman's Latest Salvo Against Herbalife

Bill Ackman — the “activist investor” also frequently modified as   “billionaire hedge fund honcho” — has promised a showdown in the digital corral at 10 a.m. ET today with slides and videos blazing against Herbalife, the company his Pershing Square Capital Management first shorted in May 2012, with a presentation packed with “particularity.”

“We have hundreds of hours of internal video,” Ackman said yesterday on CNBC's “Halftime Report,” according to a CNBC/Reuters recap of his latest tossing of the gauntlet. “We have some internal documents that were given to us by some employees.”

Herbalife is a multi-level marketer selling weight-loss shakes and nutritional supplements. It reported net sales of $4.8 billion in 2013.

During the harangue, Ackman invited Herbalife CEO Michael O. Johnson to a front-row seat at the AXA Equitable Center in Manhattan. You can watch a live webcast, as we’re betting Johnson will, at herbalifepyramidscheme.com.

For its part, Herbalife yesterday released a video that “[highlights] the positive role its nutrition clubs play in promoting a community-based approach to health and wellness across the United States” in which “members and customers from across the country share their experiences at nutrition clubs.”

In a press release pointing to the video, CFO John DiSimone, who is scheduled to appear on CNBC at 9 a.m. ET today, said: “We are proud of the tireless efforts of our millions of members around the world and know that their passion is what makes Herbalife the incredible company it is today. We fully support our members and their dedication to educating and improving their communities.” 

At the outset of yesterday’s interview, Ackman was asked: “What are we going to learn?”

“You are going to learn why Herbalife is going to collapse,” he replied. “That’s a pretty strong statement but this is the largest fraud — public fraud — in terms of scale, of countries involved, harm to people.”

Ackman has been down this road before, of course, starting with a 342-slide presentation in December 2012 publicly defending his position.

“Ackman’s Herbalife Attacks: Will Tuesday’s Be the Final ‘Deathblow’, Finally?” asks the Wall Street Journal in a hed over a story by Maureen Farrell that tracks the flurry of “presentations and punches” Achman has taken since that first attack. But Ackman “failed to deliver a knockout punch” thus far, Farrell reports — indeed, “the stock is up roughly 22% from where it traded” before his opening salvo.

Adding to the drama all along has been the contrary position of that  iconic “activist investor,” Carl Icahn, who has maintained a sizable position in the company and engaged in “an epic battle” with Achman on CNBC over the investment in January 2013. But after “ripping each other to shreds,” the two reached a détente, as CNBC’s Michael Belvedere reported last month.

The two actually “brohugged” at the Delivering Alpha conference presented by CNBC and Institutional Investor, CNBC’s Lawrence Delevingne reported, and “agreed on the importance of activism in improving companies.”

No surprise there.

The stock, HLF, yesterday “was trading down about 2.5% at around $59.30 before Ackman started speaking on CNBC,” report Ben Eisen and Tomi Kilgore on MarketWatch. It “appeared to fall off a cliff after Ackman’s comments, and was down as much as 7.7% at an intraday low of $56.18 within minutes.”

As for today, “this will be the most important presentation that I have made in my career,” Ackman said. “We won't disappoint.”

On Friday, Herbalife conducted a press conference during the Herbalife Extravaganza in Chicago “to take a stand against the continuing campaign of attacks and misinformation being waged by Bill Ackman and Pershing Square Capital Management.”

“Bill Ackman has displayed a bald-faced hypocrisy in his sham support for Latinos,” Pablo Caicedo, a Herbalife member scheduled to take part in the press conference, said in a press release announcing the event.

“Members like me are under attack by a billionaire hedge fund manager who has embarked on an unprecedented effort to take down my way of life, and we want him to know that Herbalife members won't stand for it,” said Silvia Muir, another member.

The question, at the end of the day, is whether the market will.

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