Herbalife Ltd. (HLF:US), the nutrition company that hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman has called a pyramid scheme, has registered several domain names that include the activist investor’s name.
Domain names such as therealbillackman.com and billackman.net were acquired by Herbalife as of Jan. 18, according to www.domainsearch.com. The websites are blank.
Herbalife has been battling accusations from Ackman, founder of New York hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management LP, that it uses inflated pricing, misleading sales information and a complicated incentive structure to hide a pyramid scheme. The company this month held an investor meeting to defend its direct-selling model and said Ackman had grossly mischaracterized its business.
Ackman quickly took issue with the Herbalife domain names.
“What legitimate company would do something like that,” he said yesterday in a telephone interview. “The spotlight is on Herbalife and they are doing everything they can do to turn it away.”
Ackman has his own website: factsaboutherbalife.com.
Barbara Henderson, a spokeswoman for Herbalife, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The debate over Herbalife has also sparked rare public disputes among high-profile investors. Last week, Ackman and investor Carl Icahn sparred on CNBC about the company and past dealings with each other. Icahn later said on Bloomberg Television that he didn’t “like” or “respect” Ackman.
Ackman’s shorting of Herbalife was countered by fellow hedge-fund manager Daniel Loeb. On Jan. 9, three weeks after Ackman disclosed his bet against Herbalife, Loeb’s Third Point LLC disclosed that its hedge funds held 8.9 million shares of Herbalife at year-end.
Herbalife’s shares have rebounded since Ackman first made his comments. They fell 3.4 percent to $38.67 yesterday in New York, up from a low of $26.06 after Ackman’s presentation.
Ackman said last month that Pershing Square is short more than 20 million shares, which was about 97 percent of the 20.7 million short interest shares outstanding at the time. .
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