[Our post on Bill Ackman, below, was one of our most widely read stories on Forbes and Yahoo Finance.]
Billionaire investor Bill Ackman has one of the best investing track records in the world. When you add back fees, Ackman has returned 1,199% since starting his fund in 2004. That compares to 119% in the S&P 500 for the same period.
Of course, if you invested in his fund back in 2004, you had to pony up a huge initial amount, likely $5 million or more. You had to agree to remain invested in the fund for a specific period of time, likely three years at minimum. And you had to pay Mr. Ackman a big cut of that handsome cumulative return. With that, after Ackman has taken his cut throughout the past decade, investors who have been in his fund since day one sit with a cumulative return of 627%. They put all the money up, but they share in just a little more than half of the total profits generated on their cash during the past 10 years. Still, no one would argue with a seven-fold return over a decade. It’s outstanding.
In his recent letter to investors, Ackman explained that there is no need to pay him fees. He admits that following his portfolio is easy. He says “free riders” can follow him “with none of the costs or the illiquidity, and with all of the upside.” In plain English, this means you can piggyback his investments without paying him fees, without putting up a multi-million dollar minimum investment in his fund and without having your money locked up for three years.
How is this possible, you might ask? When Ackman’s fund, Pershing Square Capital Management, takes a stake of 5% or more in a company, he is required to notify the SEC within 10 days, through a public disclosure filing called a Schedule 13D. And then, on a quarterly basis, Ackman is required to file form 13F with the SEC. This filing discloses all his fund’s positions. Ackman says, looking back, in 87% of the activist campaigns they’ve launched, the public could have bought the stocks at a “bargain price” even the day after he made his public filing.
While Ackman is one of the best-performing investors on the planet, his portfolio might be one of the easiest to replicate. His fund holds just six positions.
Here’s a look at the holdings of Ackman’s $12 billion Pershing Square fund as of its last filing:
Allergan AGN +0.33% (AGN) – AGN represents 39% of his portfolio. He has a nearly $5 billion stake in the company.
Air Products & Chemicals APD +0.89% (APD) – APD represents 21% of his portfolio. He has a $2.6 billion stake.
Canadian Pacific Rail (CP) – CP represents 20% of his portfolio. He has a $2.5 billion stake.
Burger King Worldwide (BKW) – BKW represents 8% of his portfolio. He has a stake worth $1 billion.
Platform Specialty Products Corp (PAH) – PAH represents 7% of his portfolio. He has a stake worth nearly $1 billion.
The Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC) – HHC represents 4% of his portfolio. He has a stake of $563 million.
Ackman has 80% of his fund’s money in just three stocks. That shows extraordinary conviction, and it also means he can’t afford to lose. That conviction and confidence is present only because he has the ability to gain control of, and influence on, the companies he invests in.