The Sohn Investment Conference marked its 20th anniversary this year, bringing together high-powered Wall Street regulars and global icons in an effort to raise money for pediatric cancer research and pitch the next big investment ideas.
Founded by family and friends of Wall Street trader Ira Sohn, who lost his battle with cancer at the age of 29, the Sohn Conference Foundation has raised more than $54 million for pediatric cancer research to date.
This year, the Conference took place in New York City’s Lincoln Center, and featured hedge fund heavyweights including David Tepper, Bill Ackman, David Einhorn, and Leon Cooperman, as well as luminaries such as world chess champion Magnus Carlsen, TEDMED Chairman Jay Walker, and global political risk consultant Ian Bremmer.
While everything from drones, to biological warfare, to the dating app Tinder were discussed on stage, most of the 1,000 member audience came to hear investment advice from some of the world’s greatest fund managers.
David Einhorn, founder and president of Greenlight Capital, opened the conference with a pitch to short hydrofracking. Einhorn described Pioneer Natural Resources Co. (PXD) as “motherfrackers”, saying they spend too much money to extract oil and wait too long to see a return on their investment. Conference attendees moved with lightning speed to follow Einhorn’s investment advice, causing Pioneer’s stock price to dip as low as 5.3%, a phenomenon that Business Insider dubbed being “Einhorned”.
Larry Robbins had the best joke of the day, quipping that he used “Hedge Clippers” for his last haircut. If you’re not familiar, Hedge Clippers is a group known for disrupting hedge fund meetings in protest of their economic and political influence.
On a more serious note, Robbins discussed why he is bullish on AbbVie (ABBV) and Brookdale Senior Living (BKD) . While AbbVie is expected to lose its patent on its biggest-selling drug Humira in 2017, Robbins didn’t think that would happen until 2022, and noted that AbbVie has other promising drugs in the pipeline and is well-financed for acquisitions. Regarding Brookdale Senior Living, Robbins pitched the stock as a great way to invest in demographic change. Noting America’s aging population, Robbins outlined why Brookdale was well-positioned to monetize its real estate holdings and capitalize on the increasing need to take care of seniors who can’t live in their own homes.
Angelo Martorell provided a lighthearted investment pitch. As the Sohn Investment Idea Contest winner, he pitched InterActiveCorp (IACI), the company behind famed dating app Tinder. Delivering some great one-liners, Martorell joked that “online dating is bringing liquidity to the market”, and detailed how a key part of Tinder’s success was its network effect and ease of use.
Bill Ackman, CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, closed the conference by lauding drug maker Valeant (VRX) as the next Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A). Describing Valeant as a “platform company” that makes acquisitions to increase its own value, Ackman outlined why Valeant was significantly undervalued based on the wild upticks in its stock price following its acquisitions of Bausch and Lomb and Salix Pharmaceuticals. “Shareholders should not be allowed to make this much money—it simply means the stocks are not being valued correctly….this is a huge opportunity for investors,” Ackman said. In addition to his thoughts on Valeant, Ackman merely mentioned that he wouldn’t be discussing railroad CSX (CSX) and he caused the stock to tumble more than 3% over the course of the day.
Overall, the event was a great opportunity to learn more about how fund managers spot and analyze opportunities. Michael Bloomberg, the former NYC mayor and founder of Bloomberg LP, took the stage at one point to remind everyone why they gathered together. While he started off joking about Tinder, he reiterated that the Sohn Investment Conference was not just a place to learn more about world-class investing strategies, but it was also a vehicle to help cure pediatric cancer, with today’s conference having raised more than $4 million towards that noble cause.
****Ari Zoldan is on assignment at the Sohn 2015 Investment Conference in New York. Alex Hantman contributed to this article.
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