Bill Ackman escalates Business Insider plagiarism feud with legal threat

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Bill Ackman has threatened legal action against German media group Axel Springer and its US-based Business Insider financial news site in an escalation of a bitter fight over plagiarism claims against the hedge fund boss’s wife.

The FT reported on Sunday that an internal review by Axel Springer had found Business Insider’s reporting of plagiarism allegations against academic Neri Oxman accurate and “well documented”.

In response on Sunday night, Ackman promised to take legal action against the title and its owner, threatening to escalate his social media campaign to the courts to decide the veracity of the reports.

The founder of Pershing Square Capital Management said on social media platform X that Business Insider and Axel Springer had “tripled down on their false claims and defamation” after the review, but that this meant that “they have amplified their exposure, and for that I am grateful”.

He added: “We will respond in a formal complaint which will take a few weeks to prepare . . . I would not rely on the self-adjudicated claims of Business Insider and/or Axel Springer to get an understanding of the truth.”

He later added: “By complaint I mean lawsuit.”

The FT has seen a memorandum sent on Sunday to Business Insider reporters by chief executive Barbara Peng that said the internal review by Axel Springer had found there “was no unfair bias or personal, political, and/or religious motivation in the pursuit of the stories”.

Axel Springer instigated the review after Ackman attacked reports by Business Insider claiming Oxman’s doctoral thesis had been “marred by plagiarism”. 

Ackman has criticised the methods of the reporting by Business Insider as well as appealed to its owners, including private equity group KKR, linking the stories to his own battle to unseat the president of Harvard University, Claudine Gay, in part over allegations of plagiarism. Gay resigned this month.

Oxman is a former professor of material sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ackman has lobbied a Business Insider board member as well as Axel Springer chief executive Mathias Döpfner and KKR, the German group’s biggest shareholder. Yesterday he said “Business Insider is toast”.

Peng said in her note that the group had reviewed its reporting but found “there was no unfair bias” and the “process we went through to report, edit, and review the stories was sound”.

Axel Springer declined to comment on Monday.


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