It's hard to resist tales of billionaires gone bad. It's not that we don't love our Warren Buffetts and Bill Gates -- great moneymakers who become great philanthropists. They're just not as much fun as the sleazy, scuzzy, tasteless investors who match their incredible wealth with an equally incredible lack of class.
Over the past few days, the latest tale of tacky behavior in the one percent has revolved around two of the country's richest men, Carl Icahn and Bill Ackman, who went to war with each other on the battleground of CNBC. The actual details aren't all that interesting: Ackman and Icahn have years of bad blood, dating back to a 2004 deal that went south. Recently, Ackman has been railing against Herbalife, a diet pill company that, according to him, is an illegal pyramid scheme. Ackman has shorted the stock, and Icahn has been betting against him.
In a live interview on CNBC, Icahn began by quietly reminiscing about his relationship with Ackman, but the tone quickly changed. Icahn grew harsh with the other investor, stating "I went to a tough school in Queens. They used to beat up the little Jewish boys. He was like a little Jewish boy crying that the world was taking advantage of him." He then went on to recap the pair's 2004 battle.
Ackman told his side and the two men went back and forth, with Icahn escalating his attacks before he finally went after Ackman for referencing his gifts to charity: "[Ackman] talks about charity. That's complete bulls***!" Icahn's comment inspired a collective "Oooh!" among the traders listening in on the call. A moment later, the show's moderator broke in, telling Icahn "Let me remind you we are on live television. That was an interesting choice of words ... the guys on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange clearly appreciate it as well."
Thanks for keeping it classy, Carl.
Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.