Bill Ackman made a big bet on himself even as some investors were second-guessing the future of his hedge fund, Pershing Square Capital Management. So far, it’s paying off.

The billionaire plowed about $500 million into the publicly traded arm of his fund last year, arguing it was significantly undervalued. At the time, Pershing Square Holdings Ltd. was trading at roughly $15 a share.

The fund has returned 54.5% on its investments this year through August, fueling a 48% gain for shares of Pershing Square Holdings, which traded Friday at $19.10 in Amsterdam, the highest since January 2016. That translates into about a $200 million gain for Ackman in 2019 on his half-billion-dollar bet, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

That’s quite a reversal of fortune. Early last year, Ackman told investors he had to change course after a disastrous bet on Valeant Pharmaceuticals Ltd. and an ill-fated short-selling campaign against Herbalife Nutrition Ltd. Pershing Square was seeking to snap a three-year losing streak, and investors had pulled billions of dollars from Ackman’s private funds.

“There was doubt as to whether Bill Ackman would be able to survive,” said Kai Liekefett, partner and chairman of the shareholder activism practice at law firm Sidley Austin LLP. “It looks like he has been focused on the last year or two on fundamental investing. He’s abstained from campaigning and started to find his groove again.”

Ackman, 53, is worth $1.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He declined to comment.

Pershing Square has rallied along with some of its biggest holdings, including Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., Starbucks Corp. and Burger King owner Restaurant Brands International Inc. In June, he booked a 64% profit on an investment in Automatic Data Processing Inc., about two years after acquiring a stake in the company.

Still, with big gains come big risks. Two of the fund’s best performing positions are mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which rose this year in anticipation of their government conservatorship ending. A long-awaited Treasury Department report on their future, released Thursday, left the timeline for that vague and key issues unresolved.

It had been a brutal stretch for Pershing Square investors, who had seen nothing but losses over the past several years. The fund tumbled in 2015 and again in 2016, driven in large part by Ackman’s bet on Valeant, an investment that cost investors more than $4 billion. Ackman also waged a prolonged short-selling battle against Herbalife, a losing billion-dollar bet that brought him into a public conflict with Carl Icahn, who eventually became the company’s biggest shareholder.

Ackman was poised for a rebound last year, but a pre-Christmas market collapse wiped out an 11% gain and the fund ended the year down 0.7%.

First « 1 2 » Next