Dec 11, 2023 - Business

Bill Ackman's new targets: Harvard and MIT

Bill Ackman, seated, speaking while gesturing with his right hand.

Bill Ackman speaks during a TV interview. Photo: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bill Ackman has a few new targets — even if, technically, he's retired from being a vocal activist investor.

Driving the news: Since Hamas attacked Israel, the billionaire hedge fund manager — best known for agitating public companies — has trained his focus on some of the country's most prestigious colleges.

  • On X, Ackman has frequently called out universities, like his alma mater Harvard, for failing to condemn the attacks and "to discipline students who have bullied, assaulted or otherwise been abusive to Jewish students under the guise of free speech," according to an Axios review of his posts since mid-October.
  • He's shared videos that show pro-Palestine supporters demonstrating in classrooms and tearing down or defacing posters of Israeli hostages, and he has posted his letters to Harvard.

Why it matters: The leaders of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and MIT were hauled before Congress last week due, in part, to the attention that Ackman and other financiers such as Apollo CEO Marc Rowan drew since the attack.

  • "The lack of accountability put on display suggests Ivory Towers would benefit from being stormed the same way as corporate boards," Reuters' Lauren Silva Laughlin notes in a column.

The latest: Liz Magill, the president of UPenn who delivered a widely criticized testimony at the hearing, resigned over the weekend along with Scott Bok, chairman of the university's board of trustees.

  • In response, Ackman posted: "Now the focus turns to Presidents Gay and Kornbluth and the boards of Harvard and MIT."

In his own words: "It's pathetic that we need to rely on law firms and corporations to police antisemitism on campus. None of them will hire racist students or those that support terrorists," he wrote last month.

💭 Our thought bubble, via Axios Pro's Michael Flaherty: Ackman has always been adept with media and making his points publicly. He's now working with that same savvy on X, as a private citizen and alumnus of Harvard to put relentless public pressure on the university and its peers.

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