Billionaire investor Bill Ackman took a 'pretty large stake' in a mystery company during the market meltdown, then sold it weeks later

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Billionaire investor Bill Ackman took a 'pretty large stake' in a mystery company during the market meltdown, then sold it weeks later
Hedge fund manager William Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management smiles during an interview in New York September 27, 2010.REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

  • Hedge-fund billionaire Bill Ackman bought into a mystery business during the coronavirus sell-off, but sold weeks later and invested in established holdings instead.
  • "We did take an, actually, pretty large stake in a company in the middle of the crisis at prices that looked very, very attractive," the Pershing Square chief said on an investor call on Wednesday.
  • "We ended up selling that investment at about the price we paid as we felt more comfortable reinvesting," he added.
  • Ackman also said Chipotle was his "only big frustration" last quarter, as its stock halved at one point. Pershing was unable to buy the stock as it has a representative on the fast-casual chain's board.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Billionaire investor Bill Ackman bought a big chunk of a mystery business during the market meltdown, only to sell it weeks later and double down on other holdings.

"We did take an, actually, pretty large stake in a company in the middle of the crisis at prices that looked very, very attractive," Ackman revealed during his Pershing Square hedge fund's investor call on Wednesday.

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"We ended up selling that investment at about the price we paid as we felt more comfortable reinvesting," he continued.

Read more: GOLDMAN SACHS: Buy these 25 stocks that are wildly popular with hedge funds - and have crushed the market this year

Pershing's investing strategy during the coronavirus sell-off was to focus on value and companies that it knew well and felt most confident in backing, Ackman said on the call.

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As a result, Pershing's bosses opted to bolster established holdings such as Howard Hughes. They had the chance to invest in the real-estate developer at a "very attractive price," Ackman said, and the opportunity offered a "better risk reward than the position that we sold."

Pershing declined a request for comment from Business Insider on the mystery company.

"The only big frustration"

Ackman made other intriguing comments on the call. He revealed that Pershing sold its roughly $1 billion stake in Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, despite establishing a position only last year and boosting its stake by more than a third in the first quarter.

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The hedge-fund boss also described Chipotle as "the only big frustration" last quarter. Pershing's representative on the restaurant-chain's board prevented the fund from capitalizing when Chipotle shares halved in price between February 19 and March 18, from north of $930 to below $470.

"We were very frustrated that we couldn't buy stock at that price," Ackman said.

Read more: Bank of America says a new bubble may be forming in the stock market - and shares a cheap strategy for protection that is 'significantly' more profitable than during the past 10 years

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Ackman famously turned $27 million into $2.6 billion by hedging his fund against the coronavirus sell-off. The windfall offset the losses in Pershing's equity portfolio and enabled it to ramp up its investments in several companies at discount prices.

Pershing's bets have paid off so far. It has scored about a 27% return this year as of May 26 — a sharp recovery given it was down by around 7% on March 17.

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