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US billionaire who led campaign against Ivy League schools invests $25m in Tel Aviv Stock Exchange

Israel's stock market has clawed back all of its losses since 7 October, shrugging off economic concerns about the ongoing war in Gaza
Billionaire investor Bill Ackman speaks at The New York Times DealBook conference at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City, on 10 November 2016 (AFP)

Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman and his Israeli wife Neri Oxman have purchased a five percent stake in the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, in a high-profile show of support for Israel's economy. 

The purchase is one of the biggest investments in Israel since the war in Gaza erupted after the Hamas-led 7 October attack on southern Israel.

The investment also marks the first public financial commitment to Israel’s economy by Ackman since he led a campaign against US universities over what he claims is their antisemitism and bias against pro-Israel students.

The deal was part of a secondary offering of 18.5 percent of the exchange company for 353 million shekels ($95 million). Ackman and his wife’s investment would amount to roughly $25m, according to Middle East Eye's calculations. 

The Tel Aviv stock exchange rose 7.6 percent on Wednesday after the investment was announced.

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Ackman, the CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, is better known as a combative activist investor who has earned billions of dollars for his fund's investors by taking huge shares in companies and overhauling their management style. 

Since the Israel-Palestine war erupted, he has channelled his hard-charging business ways and leveraged his 1.1 million followers on X to target top-tier universities over what he claims is their bias against Jewish students and pro-Israel voices.

He made waves on social media after 7 October, when he called on Harvard to release the names of students who had signed a letter blaming Israel for Hamas’s attack, saying that he and other CEOs wanted to make sure they didn’t “inadvertently hire” the students.

Ackman later launched a campaign calling for the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and MIT to resign “in disgrace” after they evaded answering a US lawmaker’s question at a Congressional hearing whether calls by students for the death of Jews would violate their schools’ code of conduct.

The presidents of Havard and the University of Pennsylvania both resigned amid the pressure.

Israel's stock market surges

In a statement, the stock exchange said the sale “drew robust interest from investors across Israel, the United States, Europe, and Australia, reflecting a strong vote of confidence in both the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and the Israeli economy at large.”

Israel’s economy has been jolted by the war, with Israeli communities close to Lebanon and the Gaza Strip being relocated. The large number of reservists called up to fight in Gaza has also created shortages in Israel’s labour market.

Although the market plummeted about 20 percent after the Hamas-led attack, it has since recovered and is trading slightly above its value on 7 October.

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Ackman and his wife were the only individual investors named in the stock exchange’s statement, underscoring how the US billionaire and his wife appear to be upping their profiles as supporters of Israel.

Ackman’s activism, however, has won him additional scrutiny in public.

On 4 January, Business Insider reported allegations that Oxman plagiarised segments from her doctoral dissertation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ackman had levelled the plagiarism allegations against Harvard’s former president as part of his efforts to oust her.

Ackman accused Business Insider of targeting his wife because she was Israeli and the publication was “anti-Zionist”. He has pledged to bring legal action against Business Insider’s German parent company, Axel Springer. The publication has stood behind the reporting.

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