Ackman’s Agony

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Isn’t it refreshing when one of those young billionaires with a Harvard MBA turns out to be so incredibly wrong that you wonder how they got to be billionaires in the first place?

So it goes with Bill Ackman. The 46-year-old hedge fund wunderkind running Pershing Square Capital Management finally saw his J.C. Penney bet hit the skids last week when Ackman’s pick to run the place, former Apple exec Ron Johnson, quit after burning through so much cash that the retailer has turned to Blackstone Group to raise $1 billion.

Incredibly, Ackman said he would be happy to put even more money into the middle market retailer after seeing the value of his 18 percent stake cut.

The utter failure of Johnson’s strategy, so far, to retool J.C. Penney into a collection of brand name boutiques is a lesson for financiers like Ackman who seem to think they know more about a company’s business than the people running it. Hedge fund honcho Eddie Lampert, who took over Sears some years ago, has had a similar experience with that retailer.

Ackman’s big career success was betting right on the fallout from collateralized debt obligations during the financial crisis by predicting that bond insurer MBIA would go bust. That kind of analysis, however, is miles away from having your pulse on the shopping habits of middle-aged women in Mid-America.

Perhaps Ackman should stick to his knitting.

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(Source: Daily Muse)