NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- More than two years have passed since Carl Icahn and Bill Ackman engaged in a blowout of epic proportions on live TV. And though the two have called a truce (at least publicly), tensions could still remain.
So how do these two billionaires stack up when you compare their moves?
Apple (AAPL - Get Report) has been at the top of Carl Icahn's list since August 2013, and 18 months later, it is still one of his favorite topics of discussion. The billionaire has largely gotten his way with the tech giant, including an increased buyback program and 7-to-1 split to reward investors.
Icahn has also scored a win with eBay (EBAY - Get Report) . At the start of 2014, he engaged the e-commerce company in a high-profile battle over a PayPal spinoff. eBay eventually conceded (the split it set to take place this summer), and, as of January, it looks like the fight has come to an end.
Allergan (AGN - Get Report) kept Bill Ackman in the headlines throughout 2014, as the billionaire teamed up with Valeant (VRX) in a very public, hostile bid to buy the Botox maker. This story got a twist ending when Actavis (ACT) stepped in to grab Allergan in November. And while it wasn't exactly the outcome Ackman had hoped for, the $2.6 billion he made off the deal indicates he likely isn't losing much sleep over it.
It's worth noting that neither Icahn nor Ackman is running a victory lap on any of these activist drives just yet.
Still dissatisfied with its current price (his latest target is $216), Icahn seems poised for another Apple buyback push. The eBay battle looks unfinished as well (the tell there: eBay's agreement to design PayPal's corporate defenses in such a way that it makes it easier for outsiders -- including Icahn -- to instigate change). As for Ackman, an Allergan lawsuit alleging Pershing Square and Valeant engaged in insider trading is still pending in a California federal court.
Carl Icahn has had a vociferous recently, posting to his Shareholders' Square Table platform on five separate occasions over the past three weeks.
He has largely focused his discussion on past and present -- an activist victory at Manitowoc (MTW - Get Report) and an acquisition agreement for Icahn Enterprises (IEP - Get Report) . But beyond his high hopes for Apple, the billionaire has been a bit coy as to what the future holds. His impending 13F filing may indicate what he's got cooking, but there are no guarantees.
As for Ackman, some expect him to stay quiet on the activist front for a while. The reason: Pershing Square is short on cash. The New York Post estimates that at the end of December, the firm had about $500 million on hand -- not enough to buy a big stake and initiate a new push.
Bill Ackman has been everywhere lately.
Forbes declared him 2014's winner among hedge fund managers with six weeks left in the year. Bloomberg kicked off the year with a major profile that inadvertently spurred mounds of speculation regarding six names scribbled on a yellow legal pad on Ackman's desk (Business Insider's take on that one was, literally, this: ¯\_(¿)_/¯).
Carl Icahn has been making the rounds, too, visiting CNBC to chat eBay (GCI - Get Report) , Gannett (GCI - Get Report) and Apple (AAPL - Get Report) . He's also been hamming it up on social media. Case in point: his latest public comments were addressed directly to his Twitter followers.
Bill Ackman owned 2014.
Pershing Square delivered $4.5 billion in net gains to investors last year, rendering Ackman one of the top hedge fund managers in the world. According to LCH Investments NV, he has generated lifetime gains of $11.6 billion for clients. And while some dispute that exact figure, having money parked with Bill Ackman hasn't been bad no matter how you slice it.
On the other hand, Icahn's performance lagged in 2014.
His public equity holdings generated an estimated loss of 0.39%, and the billionaire offered a bit of a mea culpa to IEP investors in a shareholder letter. "As I've said in the past, while I am extremely proud of our long term record, there have always been sporadic speed bumps along the road," he wrote. "However, I believe over the long term, our model continues to be one of the best in the world."
Mathematically, his case holds up. In a recent piece for The Economist, Icahn pointed out that an individual investing in IEP at the start of 2000 would have an annualized return of 21.5%, compared to 3.8% from the S&P 500. He also noted that an individual investing based on his 23 activist successes from 2009 through mid-2014 would obtain an annualized return of 27%.
The stock has fallen nearly 50% over the past year, indicating Ackman's billion-dollar short bet is working out. And according to his most recent regulatory filing, Icahn is still going long (in the coming days, we'll find out whether he's still holding on).
So is Ackman the winner? Not hands-down.
Such a big play has been tough on the billionaire. While he's called it "the most philanthropic investment" he's ever made, he has also admitted he would "think very hard" before undertaking such an enormous public short again.
And the market hasn't exactly rewarded the billionaire's antics -- especially in the short term. Herbalife experienced its biggest one-day rally ever in the wake of Ackman's "death blow" presentation last July. And when he talked about the stock on CNBC last month, it dipped slightly before rallying to end the day up 4.26%.