Let’s Hope Bill Ackman Doesn’t Mellow Too Much

Poor-performing chief executives can sleep a little easier. Bill Ackman, one of the world’s best-known investors, has all but ruled out future activist campaigns in favor of a lower-key approach to influencing portfolio companies. That’s a commendable investment stance. But efficient capital markets still need the odd rabble rouser.

Ackman’s reputation has largely been defined by a small number of high-profile corporate conflicts, notably his short-selling attack on Herbalife Nutrition Ltd., the snacks and supplements business. That overshadows the fact that his listed vehicle, Pershing Square Holdings Ltd, mostly takes large stakes in companies, and those positions haven’t generated much strife recently.

Last week, Ackman told investors he’s abandoning activist shorting, which involves selling borrowed shares in a target and talking down the business. His thinking on intervening as a shareholder was more nuanced. Pershing Square “intends” to keep all its interactions with companies “cordial, constructive, and productive,” he said, calling this a “quieter approach.”