Herbalife soars as Icahn reveals massive bet

The cantankerous billionaire insists the investment is nothing personal, however, even after his explosive argument with rival Bill Ackman over the stock.

By Jonathan Berr Feb 15, 2013 4:16PM
Carl Icahn in Oct. 2007 ( Mark Lennihan/AP Photo)Billionaire Carl Icahn has made a huge bet on Herbalife (HLF), acquiring a 12.98% stake in the multi-level marketer of nutritional supplements and personal care products that his rival Bill Ackman, who has a $1 billion short position in the stock, has called a Ponzi scheme.

Ichan, who has made billions over the decades through his shareholder activism, told CNBC that his decision to invest in Herbalife wasn't motivated by any personal animosity he has toward Ackman.

"I'm not going to lie to you and say if he gets squeezed, I'm going to cry and do penance," he told the business-news channel. "The fact that I don't like Ackman you can say is the strawberry on top of the ice cream."

Shares of Herbalife rose about 6% Friday on news of Icahn's investment.

Ackman, who recently got into a heated argument with Icahn over Herbalife on CNBC, reportedly welcomes his rival's investment in Herbalife because he believes it might help shine a light on the company. Herbalife, which is based in the Cayman Islands, has repeatedly said Ackman's accusations are groundless, and so far investors are standing by the company. Its shares have surged more than 23% this year.

Herbalife's other huge fan is Daniel Loeb, the founder of the New York hedge fund Third Point. He acquired an 8.2% percent stake in Herbalife in January after word of Ackman's short investment was revealed. Having so many billionaires publicly fighting over one stock at the same time is very unusual.

Over the years, Icahn has made huge investments in many companies ,including Time Warner (TWX),  Blockbuster and US Steel (X) with varying degrees of success. Ackman is also known for his huge bet on the struggling retailer J.C. Penney (JCP). Loeb's position in Yahoo (YHOO) led him to take a seat on the board of the Internet media company.

--Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

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