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Why Bill Ackman Regrets Buying Valeant

May 2, 2016, 8:28 PM UTC
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. Executives Testify At Senate Hearing On Drug Prices
Michael "Mike" Pearson, chairman and chief executive officer of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., left, speaks as Howard Schiller, former interim chief executive officer and former chief financial officer of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, center, and William "Bill" Ackman, founder and chief executive officer of Pershing Square Capital Management LP, listen during a Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing on Valeant Pharmaceuticals in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, April 27, 2016. After months of turmoil, which began with a controversy over the price increases of two cardiac drugs by 525 percent and 212 percent, Valeant has lost more than 85 percent of its stock market value, failed to file its annual report, and said it is being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Andrew Harrer — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Some things simply aren’t worth the trouble.

And now billionaire hedge funder Bill Ackman wishes that he’d never gotten involved with Valeant (VRX) in the first place, according to a Monday interview with CNBC.

When asked if he regretted investing in Valeant at all, Ackman said, “of course, no one wants to have an investment down 85% or 90%. There’s been a lot of brain damage in the last five weeks, working with the board to fix the problems.”

Over the course of roughly nine months, Valeant Pharmaceuticals has transformed from hedge fund darling into an investor’s nightmare after allegations of price gouging and questionable accounting practices were brought to light. Despite the deluge of criticism however, Ackman stood by the company and became its strongest proponent—even after the stock had shed 80% since mid-2015. Earlier this year, the hedge funder even hopped on deck as a member of the board of directors and helped drop former CEO Michael Pearson and recruit a new chief, Joe Papa, from Perrigo.

Meanwhile, holding onto Valeant has cratered Ackman’s returns for 2016. His hedge fund, Pershing Square, posted a year-to-date loss of 17.5% as of April 26.

Ackman noted to CNBC that dropping his stake at “any price would be better than the current price.” Valeant is currently trading around $32, though it reached as high as $263 a share mid-2015.

Though Pershing Square considered exiting its stake in Valeant when shares were trading much higher than now, the hedge fund ultimately decided to try and fix Valeant. Whether he made the right decision is still yet to be seen.

But now that Ackman is in deep with the company, he seems to have every intention of defending it.

In the same interview, Ackman rebutted Charlie Munger’s words from the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting over the weekend that said Valeant is a “sewer.”

“We’ve made a lot of changes in the last few weeks,” Ackman said. “The company has made some mistakes, but I think where Munger is wrong is to indict a company on the basis of a few mistakes and a leader [Pearson] that is no longer with the business now… I think this is a great company.”