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Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

Herbalife bet worst ever for Pershing Square

Ackman/Herbalife saga not over

Virtually everyone on Wall Street knows that Bill Ackman's big short bet on Herbalife has cost him so far. Now we know exactly how much it has declined: by half.

Ackman's $11.96 billion hedge fund firm, Pershing Square Capital Management, first took a short position in the nutritional supplement company on May 1, 2012, according to a presentation at its annual investor dinner Feb. 13. Since then, the firm's cumulative loss on the stock has totaled 49 percent, representing Ackman's worst investment ever.

The dollar amount of the loss is unclear. Ackman said the short position was worth $1 billion in December 2012, when he publicly announced the bet. But Pershing Square has since restructured the position using options. The stock price has appreciated by 23 percent, including dividends, from May 1, 2012, to Feb. 10, 2014, according to the presentation.

A spokesman for Pershing Square declined to comment.

A spokesman for Herbalife once again fought Ackman's assertions.

"For the past 14 months, Bill Ackman has waged a sophisticated 'short and destroy' media and lobbying campaign against Herbalife. Despite his constant attacks, Herbalife delivered another year of record performance in 2013. During that time, shareholders who believe in Herbalife and our industry-leading products have been big winners," a statement from the company to said.

"But because of his reckless $1 billion bet, Mr.Ackman and his investors at Pershing Square have been big losers. Herbalife's success is a testament to strong customer demand for the products, healthy lifestyle and financial opportunity the company provides."

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