Activist investor Carl Icahn has sold roughly 60% of his stake in Herbalife Nutrition Ltd. (NYSE: HLF) back to the company for approximately $600 million at a purchase price of $48.05, Herbalife’s closing price on the last trading day of 2020. The transaction is expected to close by the end of this week.
Icahn’s involvement with Herbalife began in 2012, not long after another activist investor, William Ackman, took a huge short position in the company after calling Herbalife a pyramid scheme.
Ackman’s allegations were enough to initiate a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation that, four years later, hit Herbalife with a $200 million fine and a requirement that the company “restructure its business so that participants are rewarded for what they sell, not how many people they recruit.” The FTC stopped short of calling Herbalife a pyramid scheme.
Icahn owned about 24% of Herbalife following a May 2018 two-for-one stock split. Last August, he reduced his holding in the company to around 15.5%, reaping a gain of around $716 million on the sale. That’s nearly equal to the estimated $780 million that Ackman lost after he closed his short position in Herbalife in February of 2018.
At the time of the August sale, Icahn claimed that since he began his involvement in Herbalife, the company’s total return to all investors was around 200%. Icahn first acquired a stake in Herbalife in late 2012, and the share price has increased by 200% since December of 2021. Herbalife paid its last dividend in February of 2014.
The latest reduction in Icahn’s holding leaves him with a stake of about 6%, too few to retain the five board seats he has controlled since 2014.
Herbalife shares traded up about 3.2% Monday morning, at $49.59 in a 52-week range of $20.73 to $52.89. The stock’s consensus price target is $66.00.