Herbalife, Bill Ackman, and the Hispanic Community

For more than 20 years, I have witnessed the positive influence Herbalife has on the Latino community, and I am personally insulted by Bill Ackman’s media campaign aimed at destroying this great company. Let’s be very clear about this situation: Mr. Ackman and his hedge fund are motivated by nothing other than profit. His efforts are self-serving and his claims about Herbalife and its treatment of Latinos are flat out wrong. 

The tragedy here is that we have an incredibly wealthy individual who made a foolish bet against a company which he apparently knows little about. He claims to be a champion of the Hispanic community, but what has he done to help Latinos in this country?

What Mr. Ackman ought to consider is how he can help the Hispanic community in this country grow and develop economically.  How many lives could he benefit if he were more thoughtful and constructive?  How many jobs could he create in the Hispanic community with a $1 billion investment? Mr. Ackman is harming the Latino community instead of supporting it. 

I have spoken with many Latino distributors and they all speak about Herbalife with passion and excitement. The fact is that Herbalife provides a unique business opportunity for Latinos – the chance to be entrepreneurial and to grow a business from the ground up.  Herbalife distributors understand that success comes with hard work; nobody is promising wealth overnight. But Herbalife extends an opportunity to make money and pursue the American dream for many people that don’t otherwise have the opportunity.

In addition, Herbalife’s products and nutrition clubs promote a healthy lifestyle for Latinos all over the country, including in Central New York.  The nutrition clubs, which consumers can join to share in the benefits of Herbalife’s weight-loss formulas, have changed lives by improving health and creating a sense of community.  

Mr. Ackman’s actions in the last ten months demonstrate his willingness to disregard the truth and smear a reputable, 33-year old company in order to promote his personal financial agenda.  His accusations are both ignorant and offensive, as they imply the Hispanic community is “easy prey” and unable to think for themselves, that they would fall victim to a “trap.” Fortunately, Herbalife’s distributors and customers do not believe Mr. Ackman.  And, with Herbalife stock recently trading at record highs and his estimated losses to date totaling more than $500 million, it seems Wall Street doesn’t either.

If you ask me, Mr. Ackman bet his money in the wrong direction.  “Te salio el tiro por la culata” – translation: trying to do something bad to someone else only to discover that you have only harmed yourself by your actions.

-Antonio C. (Tony) Martinez II

Mr. Martinez is a New York Attorney, Board Member, and former Executive Director of Somos el Futuro Inc., one of New York’s most important and influential Hispanic charitable organizations.

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