Billionaire Bill Ackman says he’s starting an activist organization to ramp up pressure on universities

Hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman, who recently fought a high-profile battle against Harvard University, said Friday that he’s starting an activist organization to fight antisemitism and reform higher education.

“It’s going to be a ‘think-and-do tank.’ It’s going to be an activist,” Ackman said in an interview with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin on “Squawk Box.” “I’m standing up an organization very shortly to focus on precisely what’s going on. … We’re going to study these issues. And we’re going to come up with solutions to problems and we’re going to implement.”

The Pershing Square Capital CEO was one of the loudest critics of Harvard, his alma mater, as well as the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, charging their presidents with not taking a strong stance against antisemitism on campus.

Claudine Gay later resigned as president of Harvard following sharp criticism of her testimony before Congress in early December, where she and other academic leaders were grilled over tolerance of antisemitism on campus. In addition, Gay faced accusations of plagiarism in her own published work.

Ackman’s fight took a turn when the online publication Business Insider posted an article that included similar accusations of plagiarism against his wife, Neri Oxman, who is an architect, designer and a former professor at MIT.

“It started with antisemitism on campus, and then I got concerned about governance at Harvard. … Then I have broader concerns about higher education generally,” Ackman said. “I think these are very important issues. And these are issues that will require resources to be focused on.”

Ackman, whose Pershing Square oversees nearly $15 billion in assets under management, said he’s going to hire a CEO and put together a board of directors for the new organization.

“This kind of activism now requires … a serious team,” Ackman said. “We’re going to go after these issues in a very aggressive way.”