A photo of the hedge fund boss, accompanying a recent Bloomberg profile, ignited a flurry of conspiracy theories. They were almost certainly all wrong.
The billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman has amassed much of his fortune dethroning CEOs and taking at least partial control of the companies they once presided over, via his activist investing campaigns.
So when sharp-eyed viewers noticed a list of CEOs scrawled on a notepad on Ackman's desk in a photo accompanying a recent Bloomberg Markets profile, the financial blogosphere went into quite a flurry trying to work out what it could all mean.
Here’s the picture as published alongside the Bloomberg article, with the yellow notepad bottom center.
Bloomberg / Via bloomberg.com
And here’s what you see when you zoom in on that notepad.
Did Ackman, who is in the business of of taking CEOs down, intentionally leave the list right side up and facing the camera, in a calculated attempt to get into the CEOs' heads? Could one of them be the target of his next activist campaign? Was this a genuine slip-up, or a genius strategic move by a guy who knows that internet sleuths would relish looking into the names on an “accidentally” revealed list?
“What does it mean?!” Business Insider asked in its analysis of what is now known as the Bill Ackman Desk Note.
BI believes the answer to be ¯_(ツ)_/¯. Who knows?
The most likely answer: This is nothing more than a list of people Ackman needs to get in touch with, a list he and his minders view as completely harmless.
This is what busy, high-ranking people do every day: they make a list of people to call or call back. And it's not just members of the finance elite who do this. Find a person who doesn't have a list of people they need to phone or email about something, and you've probably found a person who isn't an office worker.