Why Bill Ackman Ought to Buy Warren Buffett a Coke

Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting
Photograph by Bloomberg — Getty Images

Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman may need a drink tonight, after his bullish bet on Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX) took a devastating turn, with the stock losing more than 51% Tuesday after a hair-raising earnings report. Too bad for him, though, the founder of Pershing Square Capital Management most certainly won’t be drinking Coca-Cola (KO), whose shares set a new record high during the day.

As adamant as he has been in his support of Valeant, Ackman has publicly declared his distaste for Coke—both the beverage, which he says is too sugary, as well as the stock, which he has sworn off in protest of what he believes are unhealthy products. And he wielded those arguments recently as he lambasted Coca-Cola’s largest shareholder, Warren Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A), for owning a company that Ackman says contributes to obesity.

In attacking Berkshire, Ackman was striking back after Buffett’s business partner Charlie Munger last year called Valeant “deeply immoral” for its practice of raising drug prices, sparking a sort of long-distance feud over whose favorite stock was better. If only Munger and Buffett had bet Ackman a soda in their informal market wager, the investing duo would probably be toasting each other with a couple of Cokes on the hedge fund manager’s dime right about now.

While Coca-Cola’s stock ended the day just slightly below where it started, it rose to an all-time high of $45.56 in the morning. Valeant, meanwhile, fell to its lowest point in more than five years, down nearly 90% since its peak last summer. In a nod to Munger and Ackman’s stock beef, some market watchers kept score on Twitter:

Of course, it’s not exactly a Coke vs. Pepsi contest—and an investor waiting for Ackman to buy them a soda might die of thirst before the hedge fund manager admits defeat.

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