For those playing the home game, that's an appreciation of 133%, even more if you look at the low of the day. There's an old saying on Wall Street that you should never let your winners turn into losers. A stop loss at breakeven would have saved Ackman (and Pershing Square's investors) a lot of grief in 2013. The position has nearly the same amount of maximum profit had the shares continued to zero. After adjustments including option premium time loss, the current unrealized loss may exceed the total potential profit.
Will Herbalife retrace 2013's gains and continue lower until it reaches $0? Not likely. If the FTC and or other government agencies decided to play hardball, they're in no position to steamroll a $7.7 billion multinational corporation with thousands of employees and millions of independent distributors. If government agencies intended to put a dog into this fight, they would have likely done so by now.
The NYPD Hispanic Society called for New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate Herbalife. It's safe to say it will to take considerably more for Carl Icahn to become nervous that he may wake up and find the company on the pink sheets.
It shouldn't surprise anyone though that he may call this one good and ring the register, at least in part. I advised investors to do the same in early October. Icahn covered part of Netflix (NFLX) for the same reason Ackman should have when Herbalife shares were trading under $30; to protect some gains.
If you're not sure about timing a sale of some shares to lock in gains, consider using options to do it for you. The January $77.50 calls are trading for about $5 a contract. If you sell this contract against your shares and the stock continues to appreciate, your gain is capped at $82.50. If you're willing to take $82.50, an option hedge makes a lot of sense. You lower your risk, and you don't take the gain until next year.
I especially like it because if the shares decline, or are not above $77.50 at the expiration, the covered call writer keeps the entire premium and can sell options again.
At the time of publication, Weinstein had no positions in securities mentioned.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.