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Jeffrey Ubben 2010 Interview: Standing On Principal

Jeffrey Ubben: Standing On Principal

Combining a keen eye for value with a tenacity for instigating corporate change has proven to be a winning formula for Jeffrey Ubben's ValueAct Capital.

ValueAct Capital's Jeffrey Ubben describes how he hedges without shorting, why he may take 18 months to build a core investment, why he expects M&A activity to take off in the coming year, why he resists the “macro” fetish, and why he sees unrecognized value in Willis Group, VeriSign, Valeant Pharmaceuticals Intl Inc (NYSE:VRX) (TSE:VRX) Pharmaceuticals, C.R. Bard and Misys.

In what ways do you distinguish your style of activist investing from what you see others doing?

Jeffrey Ubben: We've seen public-market activism become more synonymous with media-driven campaigns meant to generate short-term price moves, so we have felt the need to distinguish that style from our own so as not to be tarred with the same brush.

Our interest starts first with the quality of the business. We're not looking for trouble, for quick deals to be made, for fixes, per se, or even for board seats. We buy good businesses at good prices, where we're willing to take on the short-term risk – the near-term negative data point – because we think the long-term gain is compelling. If the stock goes up, we look like traditional value investors who made a nice investment.

But probably half the time things don't work out that way. We're 18 months in, with a full position, and the stock is where we bought it or lower. But we've proved out the industry...