Wednesday, February 14, 2024

When threads collide...

This New York Magazine profile hits lots of our old friends.

There is, of course, Bill Ackman.

Then there's Avi Loeb, formerly noted astrophysicist, now UFO loon.

Plus Vivek Ramaswamy and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

That night, Ackman and Oxman hosted a dinner at their Upper West Side apartment, a gathering of World Minds, an “invitation-only community” funded by the media conglomerate Axel Springer that is a kind of rotating series of Davos-lite dinner parties — the kind of places where VIPs discuss the world’s problems over cocktails (Oxman is a member of the group’s advisory board). The featured guests were two members of the World Minds network: David Petraeus, former CIA director and current partner at the private-equity firm KKR, and Avi Loeb, an Israeli astrophysicist at Harvard. The war in Gaza had been raging for a month, and Petraeus gave a dispiriting talk about the broader geopolitical fallout. Later in the evening, in a call for dialogue among different tribes, Paola Antonelli, a curator at MoMA, offered a thought. “Love the aliens!” she said.

Loeb took the idea and suggested looking for hope from above. “My personal belief is that the Messiah will arrive, not necessarily from Brooklyn, as some Orthodox Jews believe, but rather from outer space,” Loeb told the group. The extraterrestrial Messiah’s message, he said, would be to stop fighting over territory here “because there is much more real estate available throughout the universe.” Back on Earth, Loeb listened while Ackman said he was hopeful that Gay would respond to his letter. “I’m a theoretical physicist, so I get paid to make predictions, and I said to him, ‘I don’t think you will,’” Loeb told me. “The last thing Harvard would do is admit their mistakes.”

Ackman believes that our lives are often fated from birth. “I have a view that people become their names,” he told me. “Like, I’ve met people named Hamburger that own McDonald’s franchises.” We’d been talking for nearly an hour and a half when Ackman asked me what my name was, hoping to offer a diagnosis. After he seemed momentarily stumped by my surname, I offered him my first name, which he misheard as Reed. “Read … write,” he said, before turning back to himself. “So, my name is Ackman — it’s like Activist Man.”


On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Ackman joined a Twitter Spaces conversation with Elon Musk and Dean Phillips, the Minnesota representative running a long-shot campaign against Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination. Ackman had endorsed Phillips, and he told the 20,000 listeners, including the accounts for Marjorie Taylor Greene and @EndWokeness, that he was “ashamed” of today’s Democratic Party. He has predicted that Trump will win if Biden is the Democratic candidate. Before settling on Phillips, Ackman had looked for alternatives in Harvard graduate Vivek Ramaswamy, Harvard graduate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and Harvard graduate Jamie Dimon, whom he had encouraged to make a run. Would Ackman, another Harvard graduate, ever consider running himself? Some of his friends think he might. “He’s going through a period of growth — a period of expansion — because it turns out this political activism is quite fun, and I believe the adulation he feels will push him to do a lot more of it,” the longtime Ackman associate told me. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him running for office. And if you ask what office, you don’t know Bill Ackman.” Ackman himself said in December that “if the country wanted me at some point, I would be open to it.”

The profile also links to a fun Vanity Fair piece that includes the following.

“Ackman seems to have this ‘Superman complex,’ ” says Chapman Capital’s Robert Chapman, who was one of the investors on the other side of Ackman’s bet. “If he jumped off a building in pursuit of super-human powered flight but then slammed to the ground, I’m pretty sure he’d blame the unanticipated and unfair force of gravity.”

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