(Article updated to include Fortune Brands purchase.)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Activist investor Bill Ackman's hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management has disclosed a significant stake in retailer J.C. Penney ( JCP) and spirits-maker Fortune Brands ( FO).

According to a 13D filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the fund bought about 39 million shares in J.C. Penney, (including 4.1 million in options and about 600,000 shares under a swap arrangement), bringing its total stake in the retailer to 16.8%. A 13D filing typically signifies activist intent.

The purchase makes Pershing the company's largest shareholder.

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Ackman, known for taking big bets on companies and pushing them for change, held other retailers including Borders ( BGP) and Target ( TGT) in his last portfolio. Last year, Ackman lost a battle to win more seats on the board of Target.

In another big bet on the consumer sector, the fund disclosed after the closing bell on Friday that it had purchased 16.68 million shares in the spirits-maker Fortune Brands ( FO), a 11% stake. The stock rose more than 7% on Friday on reports of the purchase.

-- Written by Shanthi Venkataraman in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Shanthi Venkataraman.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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