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Bill Ackman Says He Held Early Talks to Take Airbnb, Stripe Public

Bill Ackman Says He Held Early Talks to Take Airbnb, Stripe Public
Bill Ackman Says He Held Early Talks to Take Airbnb, Stripe Public
Scott Deveau and Vonnie Quinn

(Bloomberg) -- Bill Ackman said he has held preliminary discussions with Airbnb Inc., Stripe Inc., and others about potentially going public through a merger with his blank-check company.

The billionaire investor held “get-to-know-you” discussions with Airbnb’s management, Ackman said in an interview Thursday with Bloomberg TV.

Talks didn’t get to the point of due diligence before the home-sharing company filed for an initial public offering last month, he said, confirming a report in Bloomberg News.

While Airbnb hasn’t ruled out a merger with his Pershing Square Tontine Holdings Ltd. or a similar company, it prefers a traditional IPO, he added.

“We did not discuss valuation, and we didn’t get to do a deep enough dive, frankly, to determine whether this is a business that we’d want to own and what price we’d like to own it at,” Ackman said. “We like the company -- at least from the outside in terms of the nature of the business.”

A representative for Airbnb declined to comment. A representative for Stripe didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Stripe Talks

Ackman said he held limited discussions as well with Stripe, which he said isn’t mature enough yet to go public.

Pershing Square Tontine’s most likely spot to find a target is in the private equity-backed universe and it is looking in the fintech, consumer and business-to-business sectors, he said.

Ackman raised $4 billion for his blank-check company in July, and has $5 billion in total capital to deploy, with $1 billion committed by his Pershing Square Capital Management.

Blank-check companies -- also known as special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs -- raise money on the public markets to make a purchase within a set period of time, usually about two years. They don’t identify a target until after shares begin trading.

The investor said the benefits for a company like Airbnb and Stripe to go public through a SPAC deal is the certainty it brings on valuation, especially in a time of great volatility. In the case of Pershing Square Tontine, it also has the the ability to write a big check to take a large company public quickly, Ackman said.

He said he would be comfortable negotiating a deal within three-to-four weeks, with the target being public within 60 days later. That’s if he got access to a data room for due diligence and the opportunity to meet with management via Zoom, he said.

“Maybe there are some misconceptions about SPACs,” he said. “In our case, you don’t give up anything by doing a deal with us, and you get to figure out everything up front before you sign the papers.’

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