Ackman escalates attack on Business Insider—and Musk eggs him on


Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman doubled down on his attacks against Business Insider and its parent company Axel Springer. The outlet published a pair of reports finding Ackman’s wife, designer Neri Oxman, plagiarized in her academic work—prompting billionaire Elon Musk to encourage Ackman to sue.
2023 CSHL Double Helix Medals Dinner

Billionaire Elon Musk encouraged billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman to consider a lawsuit after Ackman argued Business Insider falsely accused his wife of plagiarism. Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Key Facts

Ackman, the founder and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, defended Oxman’s dissertation in a Tuesday morning post on X while calling out Insider global editor-in-chief Nicholas Carlson, after Carlson issued a statement saying Ackman and Oxman did not dispute the facts of Business Insider’s reporting.

In his post, Ackman argued he “personally disputed the facts” and the “reporting process” of those stories—which alleged Oxman plagiarized from scholars, a textbook and Wikipedia—and claimed Carlson “is lying or he has been misled by others” (Oxman admitted to omitting quotation marks in her dissertation, but claimed she used proper citation).

Ackman’s comments also come after Axel Springer issued a statement saying the “facts of the reports have not been disputed” but that the company has received concerns about the “motivation and the process leading up to the reporting.”

Axel Springer’s statement came after Ackman argued Insider did not provide Oxman enough time to respond to the plagiarism allegations and claimed Insider broke a “sacred code” by targeting “someone’s family to get at a business person.”

Ackman argued in his post-Tuesday morning that comments from Axel Springer and Carlson “have greatly contributed to the enormous reputational and emotional damage that have occurred to my wife,” while claiming the Business Insider story made “novel and speculative assumptions about what is plagiarism.”

Key Background

Ackman, a billionaire hedge fund manager who founded Pershing Square in 2004, was a vocal critic of Harvard’s then-president Claudine Gay and her handling of campus protests and antisemitism in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and Israel’s declaration of war on Hamas.

Ackman also joined a group of largely right-wing lawmakers, scholars, and outlets who called for Gay to resign over allegations of plagiarism in her academic work, including in her thesis, after the Free Beacon, a right-wing outlet, leveled plagiarism allegations against her (Gay resigned earlier this month). Last week, however, Oxman became the subject of a separate plagiarism scandal, after Business Insider published a report suggesting she improperly cited four paragraphs in her dissertation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The outlet followed up with a report on Friday claiming she lifted paragraphs from Wikipedia in that dissertation, though Oxman denied she plagiarized in that paper and Ackman argued his wife’s use of Wikipedia quotations “does not strike me as plagiarism.” In a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, Ackman also suggested he would review Insider’s reporters’ work for examples of plagiarism.

Business Insider

Business Insider’s recent reports on Oxman have created a divide within the publication and its German parent company, according to a Semafor report published Monday, which found some company officials expressing concerns the reporting could be interpreted as antisemitic and anti-Zionist (Oxman was born in Israel).

Axel Springer spokesperson Adib Sisani reiterated to Semafor that the facts of the reports “have not been disputed” while adding the company will “review the processes around these stories to ensure that our standards as well as our journalistic values have been upheld.” While Axel Springer has expressed concerns, members of the Insider Union, which represents Business Insider employees, have stood by the reporting.

In a statement to New York Times reporter Ben Mullins, the Insider Union and the NewsGuild of New York said they were “disappointed to see Axel Springer publicly call the integrity of its journalists into question,” saying the unions “are watching closely to ensure that the journalistic principles and workplace protections” it received in its collective bargaining agreement with Insider “are not compromised by Axel Springer or anyone else.”

Forbes Valuation

We estimate Ackman’s real-time net worth stands at roughly $4 billion, making the investor the world’s 749th-richest person, though only a drop in the bucket of Musk’s $241.7 billion valuation, according to Forbes.

Look back on the week that was with hand-picked articles from Australia and around the world. Sign up to the Forbes Australia newsletter here or become a member here.

More from Forbes Australia