Billionaire investor and hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman made an emotional plea to President Donald Trump and corporate America, warning that “hell is coming” if the country is not shut down for 30 days to contain the coronavirus.
Ackman Tweeted early Wednesday, “Mr. President, the only answer is to shut down the country for the next 30 days and close the borders. Tell all Americans that you are putting us on an extended Spring Break at home with family. Keep only essential services open. The government pays wages until we reopen.”
Later in the day, Ackman told CNBC’s Scott Wapner on “Halftime Report”, “We need to shut it down now. … This is the only answer.”
If Trump saves the U.S. from the coronavirus, he will get reelected in November, said Ackman, who is the founder and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down more than 1,000 points when Ackman went on the air. As he spoke, it plunged further, hitting a circuit breaker as he spouted dark doom and gloom, then closed for 15 minutes. When it reopened, it was down 2,000-plus, Forbes reported.
Ackman urged U.S. companies to stop their buyback programs because “hell is coming.” The biggest U.S. banks have already halted repurchasing stocks to put their capital to use helping consumers and businesses, according to CNBC.
Ackman tweeted that there should be no defaults and no foreclosures. He called for “a 30-day rent, interest and tax holiday for all” immediately.
A major shareholder in Hilton, he predicted that hotel stocks including Hilton could “go to zero” soon. Hilton shares have fallen nearly 50 percent in March. Marriott plunged 60 percent this month during market turmoil.
“Every hotel is going to be shut down in the country. … If we allow this to continue the way we have allowed it to continue, every hotel company in the world is done. No business can survive a period of 18 months without revenue,” he said.
Ackman said he is optimistic that Trump will move immediately to save the global economy. His Pershing Square bought shares of Hilton as markets plunged on Wednesday morning.
“I’ve been aggressively buying stocks including Hilton today. And I’ve been buying all the way down — Hilton, Restaurant Brands and Starbucks,” he said.
Ackman said he had a nightmare about COVID-19 in late January. He started doomsday prepping when he woke up. He arranged for his firm’s 50 employees to leave their midtown Manhattan offices and put on doomsday hedges. By the time the Dow Jones Industrial Average was losing a thousand points a day, Ackman’s $5.6-billion firm was making money amid the chaos, Forbes reported.
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Containment and distancing measures must happen fast, he said. “What’s scaring the American people and corporate America now is the gradual roll-out … Capitalism does not work in an 18-month shutdown. Capitalism can work in a 30-day shutdown.”
Ackman predicted that the leveraged deals at private equity firms KKR and Blackstone would be history if there wasn’t a quick solution. “(E)very one of their companies goes bankrupt,” he said. After the CNBC interview, Forbes said it learned that Ackman called Blackstone and said he’s buying the firm’s shares.
There was no shortage of Ackman critics. “Please get Ackman off CNBC before people start jumping off bridges,” Michael Novogratz tweeted.
Ackman later tweeted more optimism. “These are the bargains of a lifetime if we manage this crisis correctly,” he said.