Before Valeant overhaul, Ackman met investors at brainstorming event

Tue Aug 9, 2016 6:57pm EDT
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By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

BOSTON (Reuters) - Six weeks before Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc revealed plans to reorganize and pay down debt, similar ideas to improve the drugmaker's fortunes were discussed at a private shareholder dinner attended by top investor and board member William Ackman, according to a source who participated.

Bank of America hosted the June 29 event, billed as Valeant: a Bull/Bear dinner, at the Lincoln Ristorante in Manhattan, according to two people who saw the invitation.

Nearly two dozen mutual and hedge fund managers came to dine and brainstorm on Valeant, according to the source, who was not at liberty to speak publicly about it.

While Ackman had things to say, he came mostly to let others discuss their concerns, attending largely in "listen only mode," the source said.

Small dinners at which fund managers discuss the pros and cons of an investment bet are common on Wall Street. But one Wall Street analyst questioned the propriety of a private investor event with a board member before Valeant was due to release quarterly earnings on Tuesday.

Valeant's conduct is under particular scrutiny as it seeks to clean up an image tarnished by federal investigations into its drug pricing and accounting practices that cut its share price by more than 90 percent in one year.

The event was first disclosed by Wells Fargo analyst David Maris, a long-time critic of Valeant, in a note to clients on Monday. Maris did not attend and could not provide details.

Company officials cannot share material information about their business with a select group of investors, and are expected to not discuss significant issues in the so-called "quiet period" several weeks before they report earnings.   Continued...

William Ackman, founder and CEO of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management, speaks during the Sohn Investment Conference in New York May 4, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid