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Billionaire Bill Ackman Plots His Next Deal

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It’s been a busy year for Bill Ackman of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management. Ackman spotted the risks from the coronavirus pandemic early, building a massive credit hedge in January and February that protected his hedge fund from the market plunge. Then, he doubled down near the market lows and is up 30%-plus for the year, compounding Pershing Square’s 58% gain in 2019. Now, the hedge fund billionaire is looking for his next signature deal.

Ackman is planning to raise up to $1 billion using a publicly traded blank-check company, which will then be used to buy a stake in a business and bring it to public stock markets. The brewing deal, first reported by Reuters, would give Ackman the opportunity to make a major new investment. (Pershing Square declined to comment.)

This year, Pershing Square used the March market plunge to rebuild a position in Starbucks and add significantly to holdings like Lowe’s, Howard Hughes and Restaurant Brands. Pershing Square also build a stake in private equity giant Blackstone Group, first reported by Forbes, but then sold quickly, he recently told investors. Typically, when Pershing Square scales a new investment it commits between $500 million and $1 billion to the idea, or about a 5%-to-10% weight.

Blank check companies have become popular in recent years as a way to take private equity and venture capital backed companies public. Notable recent deals include the listings of DraftKings, Virgin Galactic and most recently, hydrogen truck unicorn Nikola Motor Company. These vehicles have attracted big names on Wall Street, from Goldman Sachs to Barry Sternlicht’s Starwood Capital and Chamath Palihapitiya of Social Capital and Ackman is no stranger to these deals.

Pershing Square notably formed a blank check company called Justice Holdings and in 2012 bought a large stake in Burger King, taking the restaurant public. The deal, in partnership with private equity giant 3G capital, turned into a massive windfall for Ackman and Pershing Square. Ackman personally owns about $250 million in shares of Burger King’s parent company and it’s been one of Pershing Square’s more successful investments. Pershing Square also invested in Nomad Foods and Platform Specialty Products, which were blank check companies, but didn’t turn out as successful.

The prospective new deal is one to watch.

Private equity firms are sitting on massive portfolios of businesses that may need new capital to manage through the pandemic, and may find appeal in quickly tapping public stock markets. Moreover, Pershing Square’s current portfolio is indexed heavily to restaurants, retailers and hoteliers, but Ackman’s done much less investing in some of the hotter corners of the stock market, like information technology and software. Pershing Square recently built a large position in healthcare software provider Agilent, and Ackman’s long been a fan of Ceridian, a maker of software for payroll.

Ackman’s Pershing Square is enjoying a renaissance after the firm battled through a $4 billion-plus loss on controversial Valeant Pharmaceuticals. The firm refocused on its areas of specialty, succeeding on investments like Nike, Starbucks, Hilton and Chipotle and has seen a major payoff. Last year was the best on record for Pershing Square and his fund is significantly outperforming peers and broader stock markets in 2020. Assets firmwide recently eclipsed $10 billion, about half of their peak, with most housed in a publicly traded permanent capital vehicle called Pershing Square Holdings.

Now, Ackman is raising new capital to hunt for new deals in markets ripe with opportunity.

Antoine Gara, Forbes Staff, Banking & Insurance

Billionaires

Tesla Vehicles Could Soon Become Completely Autonomous As Self-Driving Tech ‘Very Close’, Elon Musk Says

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Tesla vehicles could soon be completely autonomous as CEO Elon Musk said the electric vehicle firm is “very close” to achieving level 5 autonomous driving technology, during a virtual appearance at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai.

KEY FACTS

  • “I’m extremely confident that level 5 or essentially complete autonomy will happen and I think will happen very quickly,” Musk said.
  • He added that he is confident “basic functionality” for level 5 complete autonomy will be achieved this year.
  • The technology will allow vehicles to drive on roads without driver input.
  • Tesla, the world’s highest-valued carmaker after overtaking Toyota last week, already operates an Autopilot system that uses external cameras, radars and sensors, but it is driver assisted and does not make the vehicle autonomous.

KEY BACKGROUND

Tech firms, including Uber and Alphabet-owned Waymo, have pumped billions into developing self-driving cars, a futuristic idea that many had predicted would be ready by this year. But limitations around AI have stalled development of the technology. Last month, Waymo and Volvo announced they were teaming up to develop driverless cars for ride-hailing use.

TANGENT

In February, the National Transportation Safety Board found Tesla’s autopilot driver assistance was likely to blame for a fatal 2018 crash in California, leading to the board calling for more regulation of the technology, and for the company to better educate drivers on its limitations.

ADDITIONAL INFO

The road to completely autonomous driving has five levels: Level 0 describes no automation i.e. everyday cars. Level 1 represents features such as adaptive cruise control, while level 2 describes partial automation features that control speed and steering, such as those seen in Tesla vehicles. Level 3 and 4 represent limited driverless capabilities. Level 5 is the point at which a driverless vehicle can navigate all road conditions without human input, according to True Car.

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Elon Musk, Kim Kardashian Endorse Kanye West Running For President

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After years of hints, Kanye West formally announced he is running for president this year in a challenge to Trump, who he once supported, and Democratic rival Joe Biden, winning support from his friend and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

KEY FACTS

  • Rounding off his Fourth of July, West tweeted on Saturday night: “We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States! #2020VISION.”
  • Musk tweeted in response: “You have my full support!”
  • Wife Kim Kardashian also publicly pledged her support, retweeting West’s statement and adding a U.S. flag emoji.
  • West’s announcement follows years of hints that he would run for office this year which he later postponed to 2024, after publicly declaring at a Fast Company event in 2019: “When I run for president in 2024…We would create so many jobs! I’m not going to run, I’m going to walk.”
  • But the rapper, who recently inked a 10-year deal with Gap through his Yeezy brand, is reportedly yet to file any paperwork to get on state election ballots, while he has missed the deadline for states including Texas, New York, and Indiana.
  • It is not known how serious West’s intentions are this time around, however, he still has time to file as an independent candidate across most states, according to Ballotpedia.
  • West’s declaration was met with skepticism on social media, while some commentators pointed out that it could work out in Trump’s favour.

KEY BACKGROUND

West’s declaration suggests the rapper is looking to cement political ambitions he has expressed throughout Trump’s presidency. West previously forged alliances with Trump, and was pictured in the Oval Office in 2018 wearing a signature Trump ‘Make America Great Again’ cap. He once called the president his “brother” and previously hit back at criticism towards his support for Trump, likening the backlash to racial discrimination. Although he says he didn’t vote in 2016, West later said he “would have voted for Trump”, and earlier this year doubled down, suggesting he would vote for him in November. But that could very well change given Saturday’s announcement.

American rapper and producer Kanye West embraces real estate developer and US President Donald Trump in the White House’s Oval Office, Washington DC, October 11, 2018. West wears a red baseball cap that reads ‘Make America Great Again,’ Trump’s campaign slogan. (Photo by Ron Sachs/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images)

TANGENT

West and Musk were pictured together on July 1st, with West tweeting: “When you go to your boys [sic] house and you’re both wearing orange.”

Isabel Togoh, Forbes Staff, Business

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Quote Of The Day

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We have grown past the stage of fairy-tale. As women, we have one common front and that is to succeed. We have to take the bull by the horn and make the change happen by ourselves.

– Folorunso Alakija, Billionaire Businesswoman

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