Carl Icahn bought more than two-million additional Herbalife shares late on Friday, but according to sources the billionaire investor may have been interested in exiting his position earlier in August—but only for the right price.
Sources tell CNBC that two financial firms, Jefferies and UBS, were working independently to find a buyer for Icahn’s massive stake in the nutritional supplement company, but nothing ever happened.
These sources also said that, as recently as late last week, Icahn was bid for a large block of his Herbalife position but chose not to sell. In addition, Icahn never offered his shares, they added.
It’s also possible that Icahn, a well-known poker enthusiast, was simply shopping his shares to give the appearance that he was looking to exit his position.
The billionaire had no comment when reached by CNBC on Saturday.
Icahn’s position in Herbalife is worth more than a billion dollars, shares which he started accumulating in late 2012. The price off the stock has soared in value over that period, as has Icahn’s stake.
On CNBC’s “Squawk Box”, Friday morning, Bill Ackman claimed he was among the parties contacted by Jefferies about buying a small portion of Icahn’s shares. Ackman claimed his long time Herbalife nemesis was trying to sell his position “because he knows this thing is toast.”
Yet Icahn ended up buying more instead, and said in a statement on Friday that he never directly put in a sell order to Jefferies, which a spokesperson at the firm confirmed to CNBC.
Icahn and Ackman have been battling over Herbalife for years. Ackman is short the stock and has waged a public battle against the company, while Icahn has taken the other side of the trade.
In a letter announcing his Friday Herbalife purchase, Icahn tore into Ackman. “It amazes me that a guy who hasn’t any knowledge of my internal investment thinking believes he is in a position to go on television to tell the world what I AM thinking,” the investor wrote. “Amazing!”