Bill Ackman Seen Having Dinner With Business Insider’s Publisher After Lawsuit Threat

Ackman said he'd heard from "multiple people from around the world" that Döpfner is "a wonderful, first-class person."

CEO and Portfolio Manager Pershing Square Capital Management L.P. William Ackman
Bill Ackman was seen out with Business Insider’s publisher last week. Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The New York Times

Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman and Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of German publisher Axel Springer, were seen having dinner together in a New York City restaurant last week, Page Six reported on Feb.19. Despite Ackman’s recent threat to sue the Axel Springer-owned Business Insider over a pair of unflattering reports about his wife, the vibe of his dinner with Döpfner was “cordial” and “nice,” according to sources speaking to Page Six. 

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Last month, Business Insider published a report accusing Ackman’s wife, Neri Oxman, an architect and former professor at MIT, of plagiarizing parts of her Ph.D. dissertation from sources like Wikipedia. The report came not long after Ackman, a Harvard alumnus, waged a campaign to oust Harvard’s former president Claudine Gay over plagiarism allegations and her handling of antisemitism on campus. Gay resigned on Jan. 2.

Though Ackman took issue with Business Insider’s reporting process overall, he was especially upset with a follow-up article claiming that Oxman had admitted to plagiarism, citing her X post apologizing for the errors found in her doctoral dissertation. 

“Honest errors are not plagiarism under MIT’s own policies,” Ackman said in a podcast interview with Lex Fridman aired Feb. 20. In his view, Oxman’s errors were unintentional, differentiating them from academic fraud.  

In an X thread (using X Premium’s long posts feature) on Jan. 10, Ackman listed a number of actions he believed Axel Springer and Döpfner should take to resolve the crisis, including an in-person meeting and an apology from Döpfner, whom Ackman mistakenly referred to as “Michael” throughout the post. 

3. Michael needs to get on a plane and come to meet me in New York immediately. 4. Michael, Henry, and I need to sit down tomorrow and resolve this mess so that: This never happens again to anyone ever.”

Barbara Peng, the CEO of Business Insider, issued a statement four days later, maintaining that the publication’s reporting is accurate and without unfair bias. Business Insider has not changed or removed those articles about Oxman per Ackman’s request. 

Despite his issues with Business Insider, in his X posts Ackman noted that he’d heard from “multiple people from around the world” that Döpfner is “a wonderful, first-class person.”

It’s possible that Ackman and Döpfner’s acquaintance is only recent. But Axel Springer has been in Ackman’s orbit as a majority stakeholder in an organization called World Minds, founded by the Swiss author Rolf Dobelli. A profile of Ackman in the New York Magazine published on Feb. 12 mentioned a gathering in November 2023 hosted by the investor and his wife on behalf of World Minds.

World Minds’ community has around 1,500 elites from around the world, and the purpose of its rotational gatherings is to discuss global issues amongst themselves in an “intellectual oasis,” according to its website. Oxman sits on the organization’s board. 

Axel Springer became a majority investor in World Minds in 2022.  Döpfner said in a statement at the time that his company will help the organization expand internationally.     

Bill Ackman Seen Having Dinner With Business Insider’s Publisher After Lawsuit Threat