Bill Ackman: "I’m Only Second To Donald Trump In Terms Of Clicks On The Internet"

There are several delightful tidbits in this weekend's FT interview with ADP CEO Carlos Rodriguez, who has been engaged in a bitter proxy fight with activist investor Bill ackman. For those who are familiar with the Pershing Square head, it will come as no surprise that he has long harbored megalomaniac tendencies. For everyone else, the following segment should be quite eye-opening.

As ADP chief executive Carlos Rodriguez recalls it, activist investor Bill Ackman told him he should step down the first time he spoke to him. The second time, he warned him there would be a public fight. 

 

“He said: I know you don’t like the media, but I do and I’m really good at it,” Mr Rodriguez said. “And if this gets into a public battle, it’s going to be bad for you personally, it’s going to be bad for the company, but I’m fine with it because — and he said this — I’m told that I’m only second to Donald Trump in terms of number of clicks on the internet, and hence you will lose if there’s a public relations battle.”

It's not clear what "clicks" Ackman was referring to: his official twitter account has 13.9K followers, and Ackman has tweeted a total of 9 times since joining Twitter this June. Perhaps Ackman has an inside look into google searches but we doubt that this is the smoking gun.

It gets better:

The fund manager also sought an extension of time from the board to nominate directors because he was going on holiday and needed more time to finish his presentation.  According to Mr Rodriguez, Mr Ackman told him: “I can’t change my vacation plans. And by the way, even if I wasn’t going on vacation, my presentation isn’t ready. I haven’t finished the work,” he recalled.

 

“And I’m like: Well, OK. I’ll relay that back to the board.”

 

“The board had a discussion. The board said: Why in the world . . . and everyone’s scratching their heads like: Why would we grant an extension?” Mr Rodriguez said. “He’s had plenty of time. He’s had a whole year.”

We can therefore commiserate with Rodriguez' summary of his Ackman interactions as "surreal"

Mr Rodriguez, who had never dealt with an activist campaign before Mr Ackman launched a proxy fight to win three seats on the board of the US HR and payroll processing company he runs, recounted in an interview the conversations that began in August this year, calling them “surreal”.

Perhaps the pressure finally got to bill - the stakes are certainly high: "Pershing Square has invested about 25 per cent of its funds in ADP, making the company its largest investment. The fund says that ADP can boost its profit margins by improving software and services, reducing operating costs and becoming more efficient."

In any case, as the FT adds, "Ackman disputes Mr Rodriguez’s recollection of their conversations, and has publicly said he is willing to work with the ADP chief executive. 'It’s disappointing that ADP continues to attack the messenger instead of addressing the important questions we have raised about ADP’s operational underperformance and its deteriorating competitive position.'"

As for attacking the messenger, there's plenty to go around:

Mr Rodriguez is also critical of Mr Ackman’s record: after finishing 2016 down 9.6 per cent and 2015 down 16.2 per cent, his main fund is flat this year, though in 2014, he was up 36.9 per cent. In March this year, he apologised to investors over his disastrous investment in Valeant, which lost his funds about $4bn. 

 

Unfortunately, what he has left is destruction and chaos in his wake on a number of other companies that did not work out,” Mr Rodriguez said.

Read the full interview here.

Comments

cheech_wizard NoDebt Mon, 10/23/2017 - 12:46 Permalink

Someone afflicted with “The Hubris Syndrome,” a term first coined by David Owen in his book of the same name, exhibits an exaggerated pride, overwhelming self-confidence and contempt for others. Someone suffering from The Hubris Syndrome rarely admits failure. The Hubris Syndrome becomes the signature trait of the sociopath that has risen to the top of your typical dysfunctional organization. Standard Disclaimer: All the signs, but what's the cure?

In reply to by NoDebt

TheMexican Mon, 10/23/2017 - 11:32 Permalink

To take the beating he did in his Herbalife short position and Valeant long position and continuously argue he is right and not cover takes a special type of sociopath. "A sociopath can be defined as a person who has Antisocial Personality Disorder. This disorder is characterized by a disregard for the feelings of others, a lack of remorse or shame, manipulative behavior, unchecked egocentricity, and the ability to lie in order to achieve one's goals. Sociopaths can be dangerous at worst or simply very difficult to deal with, and it's important to know if you have found yourself with a sociopath, whether it's someone you're dating or an impossible coworker. If you want to know how to spot a sociopath, then you have to pay careful attention to what the person says or does."

Catullus Mon, 10/23/2017 - 11:35 Permalink

Am I paying you to write blog posts and get clicks on the internet? Or am I paying you to manage my money?

Pull your money from this guy

any_mouse Squid Viscous Mon, 10/23/2017 - 12:54 Permalink

Lest we forget, today we learned of USAF General Goldfein and his search for novel uses of nukes in combat.

I am sorry, but Hitler bothered no Jews.

The end credits should have had a disclaimer:
"No Jews were gassed or cremated in the making of Holocaust: The Movie."

Work camps were not sanitary to begin with, add in food and supplies diverted to fending off Bolsheviks at the gate to Berlin, constant Allied bombing of infrastructure, except those of certain owners of the means of Production that served the German War machine. Their factories were never on the target lists. Nor were they summoned to Nuremberg to receive a pretend judgement and pretend punishment.

German war machine needed slave laborers to replace laborers conscripted to replace losses on the Eastern Front.

They did not need dead bodies in the manufacture of war materiel.

Hitler was responsible for the death of millions of German males in the prime of their lives. The Soviets came in led by Bolsheviks, and raped every German female, every as in from infant to grandmother, in Soviet occupied territory.

The genocide of German bloodlines.

Back to the Jish.

No camp staff to bury the dead. Corpses, piled on corpses.

Then Eisenhower's Hollywood producer (a wookie from Endor) produced "Holocaust: the Movie" from a staged production. As phony as Leni Riefenstahl's masses of happy, blissful Aryans cheering for Hitler. Hired event actors. 30,000 strong. She was good. The CIA and Hollywood are better. The villagers in the movie of Holocaust were set up. The table of lamp shades and soap bars were props. Black & White. They told you what you were seeing.

Like holding up a vial of a white substance and telling us that it is anthrax from Saddam's chemical weapon factories. Or smudges and shadows that are labeled "Missile Launcher" etc. on a paste up board. Or radar images of North Vietnamese gunboats firing on USN war ships.

"I Like Ike" was lying, gasp, lying to us. Fifteen years before his warning, upon exit, of the MIC that he oversaw during the boom years of development, for eight years.

In reply to by Squid Viscous

Vageling Mon, 10/23/2017 - 12:09 Permalink

This guy is NutZ. Full retard! Trump is the legally elected POTUS. Challenging that is cracking an hard nut. Not easy. Sure... He gets to disagree. But that rambo talk? No bitch. You're Jane, he's Tarzan. Little funny guy is saying between the lines he thinks he runs a country. Funny man. Even jeopardize the company? Sure... Be careful his ass doesn't get booted first. Stakeholders don't like this BS.Tone down silly muppet. "That" empire" is not completed yet. Never will be by the people their wish. Suck it up, buttercup. You're a legend in your own mind only. Muppet!

Rebelrebel7 Mon, 10/23/2017 - 12:14 Permalink

Bill Ackman will be devastated to learn that when I typed bi , Bill O'Reilly and Billy Joel showed up as auto srarch suggestions, and I've never searched either of those names . 

RedBaron616 Mon, 10/23/2017 - 12:26 Permalink

Bill who? I guess your secretary must have lied to you about the second to Trump nonsense. I certainly don't run around the Internet looking for YOUR nuggets of knowledge. LOL Get a life, loser.

rqb1 Mon, 10/23/2017 - 13:16 Permalink

Bill Ackman has always been straight forward and honest with small investors.  He is not always right, but it has been good for me to follow him.  On GGP I had bitcoin returns and I will always be thankful to him for that.  

experimentals Mon, 10/23/2017 - 15:40 Permalink

10/23/2017 ADP’s Rodriguez squares up to activist investor Bill Ackmanhttps://www.ft.com/content/03efcc88-b528-11e7-a398-73d59db9e399?mhq5j=e7 1/5Automatic Data Processing IncADP’s Rodriguez squares up to activist investor Bill AckmanProxy battle with Pershing Square to secure board seats reveals culture differences© Pascal Perich/FTYESTERDAY by Lindsay Fortado in LondonAs ADP chief executive Carlos Rodriguez recalls it, activist investor Bill Ackman told him he shouldstep down the first time he spoke to him. The second time, he warned him there would be a publicfight.“He said: I know you don’t like the media, but I do and I’m really good at it,” Mr Rodriguez said.“And if this gets into a public battle, it’s going to be bad for you personally, it’s going to be bad forthe company, but I’m fine with it because — and he said this — I’m told that I’m only second toDonald Trump in terms of number of clicks on the internet, and hence you will lose if there’s apublic relations battle.”Mr Rodriguez, who had never dealt with an activist campaign before Mr Ackman launched a proxyfight to win three seats on the board of the US HR and payroll processing company he runs,recounted in an interview the conversations that began in August this year, calling them “surreal”.The proxy battle between Mr Ackman’s Pershing Square hedge fund and ADP has been one of thebigger shareholder activist disputes of the year. The largest, where Nelson Peltz sought a board seat10/23/2017 ADP’s Rodriguez squares up to activist investor Bill Ackmanhttps://www.ft.com/content/03efcc88-b528-11e7-a398-73d59db9e399?mhq5j=e7 2/5at Procter & Gamble, went down to the wire in a vote earlier this month. In the end, Mr Peltz lost bya tiny margin.While industry insiders say they expect ADP to win this fight, some analysts say that shareholdersare receptive to Pershing Square’s ideas. Mr Ackman’s bid for the board seats will go to a vote at thecompany’s annual shareholder meeting on November 7.Mr Rodriguez, a 53-year-old Cuban immigrant, has been chief executive of the largest HR andpayroll provider in the US since 2011, while billionaire Mr Ackman is one of the best-knownactivists after years of high-profile investments including Valeant Pharmaceuticals, JC Penney andChipotle.Mr Ackman disputes Mr Rodriguez’s recollection of their conversations, and has publicly said he iswilling to work with the ADP chief executive.“It’s disappointing that ADP continues to attack the messenger instead of addressing the importantquestions we have raised about ADP’s operational underperformance and its deterioratingcompetitive position,” Mr Ackman said.Pershing Square has invested about 25 per cent of its funds in ADP, making the company its largestinvestment. The fund says that ADP can boost its profit margins by improving software andservices, reducing operating costs and becoming more efficient.ADP has outperformed the US stock market over the past five years, generating total returns of152.4 per cent, compared with 98.7 per cent for the S&P 500, according to FactSet data. However,this year, returns of 13.4 per cent have fallen short of the 16.3 per cent posted by the US equitiesbarometer.The ADP chief executive said he has “no disagreement with the themes” that Mr Ackman hasraised, but that the company is already making large investments in technology and is focusing ondata analytics and opportunities from changes to the way people are employed and paid.“We have become a much broader human resources provider besides just the original payrollthings that we have done traditionally,” Mr Rodriguez said.A Sanford Bernstein report published this month that surveyed some of ADP’s shareholders foundsupport for Mr Ackman’s ideas, but also for the company’s management.10/23/2017 ADP’s Rodriguez squares up to activist investor Bill Ackmanhttps://www.ft.com/content/03efcc88-b528-11e7-a398-73d59db9e399?mhq5j=e7 3/5While the support for Pershing Square’s ideas “maynot translate to votes” and the majority are scepticalof the fund’s nominees for the board, which includeMr Ackman, its involvement and its focus on highermargins should be a win-win for shareholders, theysaid.The results of the shareholder survey “increase thelikelihood that Pershing will win meaningful supportin the Nov 7 shareholder vote, although we still consider it unlikely the activist wins seats,”Bernstein analysts Lisa Ellis and Harshita Rawat wrote.Mr Rodriguez, who is one of just a few Latinos at the helm of a major US company, was born inCamagüey, Cuba in 1964, just five years after the revolution ousted President Fulgencio Batista andFidel Castro seized power. At the age of three, his family fled the country, landing in West PalmBeach, Florida with a suitcase.Mr Rodriguez joined ADP in 1999 through an acquisition and ran various business units before hebecame chief executive. ADP has a market capitalisation of about $50bn, and more than 700,000clients.Mr Rodriguez, who attended Harvard at the same time as Mr Ackman, said the two first spoke onAugust 1.Pershing Square, which had built an 8 per cent stake in ADP in stock and derivatives, wassupportive of the company’s progress but thought it needed to adapt faster, to replace as many asfive directors, and to oust Mr Rodriguez, he recalled Mr Ackman telling him.The fund manager also sought an extension of time from the board to nominate directors becausehe was going on holiday and needed more time to finish his presentation.According to Mr Rodriguez, Mr Ackman told him: “Ican’t change my vacation plans. And by the way, evenif I wasn’t going on vacation, my presentation isn’tready. I haven’t finished the work,” he recalled. “AndI’m like: Well, OK. I’ll relay that back to the board.”Why would we grant anextension? He’s had plentyof time. He’s had a wholeyearCARLOS RODRIGUEZIt’s disappointing that ADPcontinues to attack themessenger instead ofaddressing the importantquestions we have raised ...10/23/2017 ADP’s Rodriguez squares up to activist investor Bill Ackmanhttps://www.ft.com/content/03efcc88-b528-11e7-a398-73d59db9e399?mhq5j=e7 4/5Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't copy articlesfrom FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.“The board had a discussion. The board said: Why inthe world . . . and everyone’s scratching their headslike: Why would we grant an extension?” MrRodriguez said. “He’s had plenty of time. He’s had awhole year.”ADP’s board rejected the request, and Mr Ackmanlaunched a proxy fight to win three board seats.The contest has grown testy, with Mr Rodriguez dubbing his rival a “spoiled brat” in a televisioninterview.Mr Ackman has responded with a series of webcasts targeting ADP retail shareholders — whohistorically vote alongside the company in a proxy fight and make up about 28 per cent of ADP’sinvestor base.Pershing Square has said the company is “underperforming its potential” and needs to answer whyits productivity is below competitors.But Mr Rodriguez said Mr Ackman has been unprepared on how to help improve ADP, and doesnot fully understand the company. “Everybody understands the message, which is margins shouldbe double what they are . . . but there is no plan to do that,” he said.Mr Rodriguez is also critical of Mr Ackman’s record: after finishing 2016 down 9.6 per cent and2015 down 16.2 per cent, his main fund is flat this year, though in 2014, he was up 36.9 per cent. InMarch this year, he apologised to investors over his disastrous investment in Valeant, which lost hisfunds about $4bn.“Unfortunately, what he has left is destruction and chaos in his wake on a number of othercompanies that did not work out,” Mr Rodriguez said.“We have a strategy, and we have a board of directors that tests our strategy . . . We do not have anystrategy from him.”Additional reporting by Adam SamsonBILL ACKMAN10/23/2017 ADP’s Rodriguez squares up to activist investor Bill Ackmanhttps://www.ft.com/content/03efcc88-b528-11e7-a398-73d59db9e399?mhq5j=e7 5/5