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‘We have lost confidence’: Why Bill Ackman is so down on Netflix he’d rather take a $430 million loss than wait for a turnaround

April 21, 2022, 9:12 AM UTC

In the past 24 hours, Netflix has been hit with a double-digit barrage of Wall Street downgrades, and an epic stock sell-off. For investors, the worst blow of all came in the form of a no-confidence vote delivered by billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman.

After the bell yesterday, the CEO of Pershing Square issued a brief but sobering letter to investors detailing that the hedge fund titan had just sold its entire stake in Netflix after the online streaming pioneer delivered a lousy Q1 report card that showed it’s hemorrhaging subscribers.

Wall Street Twitter was quick to tally up the loss: a staggering $430 million haircut for Pershing.

Netflix shares bombed 35.1% on Wednesday, and are down a further 1.4% in pre-market on Thursday. The stock is now trading at 2018 levels, and has lost two-thirds of its value since hitting an all-time high last November.

Market observers saw a bit of schadenfreude in Ackman’s costly Netflix dalliance. It was just three months ago that he very publicly told investors he was all in on NFLX—to the tune of a $1.1. billion buying spree—and that he had full faith in CEO Reed Hastings and his management team to turn things around.

Fast-forward to yesterday, and Ackman was singing a different tune. He said he’s lost confidence in the company’s turnaround plan, which involves cracking down on password sharing, and selling advertising on the platform. He called the moves “sensible.” But the deal killer for Pershing was how long it would take for the moves to bear fruit: two years.

That was enough for Pershing to wave the white flag.

“While Netflix’s business is fundamentally simple to understand, in light of recent events, we have lost confidence in our ability to predict the company’s future prospects with a sufficient degree of certainty,” Ackman wrote in the investor letter.

Ackman’s big bets have soured before. He famously went big on Valeant Phamaceuticals in 2015 just before the share price collapsed. He held onto the stock for two years, even adding to his position, a move that triggered an exodus of investors from his fund.

This time, with Netflix, Ackman got in and out quickly, apparently unwilling to repeat the Valeant blunder.

“One of our learnings from past mistakes is to act promptly when we discover new information about an investment that is inconsistent with our original thesis. That is why we did so here,” he wrote.

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