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A Season of Ackman’s Life

Bill Ackman responded to the B.I. pieces by essentially placing the media company, which is owned by Axel Springer, at the center of his next activist campaign.
Bill Ackman responded to the B.I. pieces by essentially placing the media company at the center of his next activist campaign. Photo: Patrick McMullan/Getty Images
Dylan Byers
January 10, 2024

Bill Ackman, the billionaire hedge fund manager, has spent the past month or so proudly demonstrating to the broader media-cultural elite the sort of activist chops that have underpinned his mostly brilliant investing career, and were particularly on display during some of his more high-profile corporate campaigns. Ever since the presidents of Harvard, Penn, and M.I.T. offered their cringeworthy assessments of antisemitic behavior on their campuses before Congress, four weeks ago, Ackman veritably drafted himself into a viral holy war against them. His rage was focused, in particular, at Harvard president Claudine Gay, who was defenestrated weeks after the hearings, ostensibly due to newly unearthed accusations of plagiarism and sloppy attribution in her dissertation. As Harvard Chabad’s Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi told the Times, “When the history of this moment is written, Bill will be a part of it.”

Then, last week, Business Insider published two long-ish pieces suggesting that Ackman’s wife, Neri Oxman, a computational designer and former M.I.T. academic, had also improperly used other academics’ work without citation for her 2010 dissertation. In a piece published on Thursday, B.I. highlighted a few examples in which Oxman either did not properly attribute the work of others or did not put quotation marks around their work in her paper. A follow-up piece, the next day, began with the lede that Oxman “stole sentences and whole paragraphs from Wikipedia, other scholars, and technical documents in her academic writing.”