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Ackman Ramps Up Israel Support With Stake in Tel Aviv Bourse

(Bloomberg) -- Bill Ackman and his wife Neri Oxman have bought a stake in the Tel Aviv bourse, one of the most prominent investments in Israel since its war with Hamas erupted.

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Ackman, 57, who has railed against a rise in antisemitism since the Hamas attacks and Israel’s subsequent retaliation, and Oxman are buying 5% of Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Ltd. The deal is part of a roughly 18.5% stake sale to foreign and local investors for 353 million shekels ($95 million), meaning the couple would have paid $25 million, according to calculations by Bloomberg.

“Owning an exchange in a country with tremendous long-term growth potential is one of the best investments you can make,” Ackman said in a statement. “Investing in the TASE of ‘Startup Nation’ is precisely that. It represents our support for Israel, and our confidence in its economy and long-term future.”

The transaction is the latest high-profile move from the hedge fund billionaire, who has become an increasingly vocal voice in America’s culture wars in recent months, speaking out against the media, and antisemitism on university campuses, as well the way diversity programs are run. That’s touched a nerve among the political left, but won him plenty of praise from conservative activists, members of the Jewish community and even Elon Musk.

For Israel, the deal is another sign of foreign investors returning to the country after having pulled money at the onset of the war. The share sale “received a lot of interest from international and local investors, including from large investors who have not yet invested in Israel,” said Ittai Ben Zeev, chief executive officer of the stock exchange.

Ackman and Oxman were the only investors named in a statement detailing the sale, which was priced at a 2% discount to the stock’s last close.

Shares in the bourse jumped as much as 9.4%, putting it on track to erase all war-linked losses. The stock had fallen 3% since the start of the war through Tuesday’s close, under-performing global peers. Saudi Tadawul Group Holding, Deutsche Boerse AG and London Stock Exchange Group Plc all had gains of at least 12% in the same period.

Harvard Graduate

Ackman, a Harvard University graduate who founded Pershing Square Capital Management in 2004, has a personal net worth of $2.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Over the decades, he’s fashioned a place for himself as an arbiter of how public companies should behave, known for his shareholder activism that included an ill-fated short-selling campaign at Herbalife Nutrition Ltd. Ackman swore off big, messy short selling campaigns in 2022, telling investors he’d take a “quieter approach.”

Though Ackman remains the fund’s final decision-maker, he deputized a chief investment officer. The structure of his fund, unusual in the hedge fund world, means he doesn’t have to answer to big-money investors as a typical manager would.

At the same time he’s pushing ahead on hot-button topics, opining on the platform X with the same pugnacity that defined his Wall Street career.

His Israel investment comes on the heels of a campaign directed at Harvard’s leadership for failing to root out antisemitism on campus. Claudine Gay, the university’s first Black president, eventually stepped down amid Ackman’s attacks and allegations of plagiarism.

Read More: Bill Ackman Brings Activist Playbook to America’s Culture Wars

Oxman was a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab. A first lieutenant in the Israeli Air Force, she is a graduate of the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London.

According to a recent report in Business Insider, she plagiarized multiple paragraphs of her 2010 doctoral dissertation. Oxman responded to the outlet’s accusations saying she had “omitted quotation marks for certain work” in her 330-page thesis, but had cited other authors appropriately.

Ackman has accused the site of holding a “campaign to destroy” his wife, while Business Insider’s chief executive officer said the organization stands by its report.

Read More: Why Israel-Hamas War Puts Heat on College Leaders: QuickTake

--With assistance from Dana Khraiche and Farah Elbahrawy.

(Adds comment from Bill Ackman in third paragraph. A previous version of this story was corrected to fix the value of shares sold and the discount.)

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