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Herbalife Circus: Expect More Entertainment (Update1)

(Updated from 11:06 a.m. EST to include comments from Icahn on CNBC in the 15th and 16th paragraphs.)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Let the games begin.

Just a month after their very public battle on CNBC, the fight between Carl Icahn and Bill Ackman just ratcheted up another level, with Icahn revealing he has close to a 13% stake in Herbalife (HLF - Get Report).

Icahn filed a 13D on Thursday, showing he has accumulated a stake in the multi-level marketing (MLM) company. The interesting part is that it's mostly in options, and the majority of it was accumulated this week, in anticipation of a deluge of regulatory filings.

In the filing, Icahn noted that Herbalife "has a legitimate business model, with favorable long-term opportunities for growth. The Reporting Persons [Icahn] intend to have discussions with management of the Issuer regarding the business and strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder value, such as a recapitalization or a going-private transaction."

Ackman, through his Pershing Square Capital Management hedge fund, is short some 20 million shares of the company, which he called a fraud last year. Ackman has even gone so far as to set up a Web site devoted to his thesis on the company,

The short position caused Herbalife to respond last month, with executives calling the claims false. "The allegation that Herbalife is a pyramid scheme is bogus. Make no mistake: Today's announcement isn't about Herbalife's business model. It's about Bill Ackman's business model," the company said in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an inquiry into Herbalife.

Herbalife CEO Michael O. Johnson has appeared repeatedly on CNBC to defend his firm, which he has described as a "legitimate company." Then there was this bizarre statement from Herbalife demanding a correction from the NY Post last month. It's become a circus, except now we have billionaires involved, instead of Barnum & Bailey.
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