Martin Lipton
Martin Lipton ()

Martin Lipton, it turns out, can articulate a grudging respect for a few activist investors if pressed.

During a session at this year’s Corporate Law institute gathering at Tulane University, New York Times DealBook editor Andrew Ross Sorkin asked the Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz founding partner—who invented the poison pill defense against unwanted corporate takeovers—to identify the activist investors likes. Lipton responded by ticking off the the following names: Ralph V. Whitworth and David Batchelder of Relational Investors; Nelson Peltz and Peter May of Trian Partners; and Barry Rosenstein of Jana Partners, according to the Times’ account of his conversation with Sorkin.

Lipton was also quick to note the activist investors he is not so fond of. “I don’t like Carl Icahn,” he told Sorkin, the Times reports. “I don’t like Paul Singer at Elliott; I don’t like Dan Loeb at Third Point; and I don’t like Bill Ackman.”

Lipton said his distaste for the latter group is based on his view that they are interested only their own short-term gains, which they pursue at the expense of their targets’ long-term value.

As the Times’ noted and The Wall Street Journal also reported, Lipton also singled out BlackRock chief Laurence Fink for praise for a letter he wrote admonishing CEOs for failing to invest in their companies strategically and instead bowing to short-term pressures by, among other things, increasing debt via stock buybacks.

“That kind of pressure results in illegality or immorality,” Lipton said. “It shouldn’t be allowed.”