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Billionaire John Paulson joins Valeant’s board of directors

Billionaire hedge-fund manager John Paulson joined the board of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., a move that could help comfort investors who saw longtime backer Bill Ackman bail out earlier this year.

Following Ackman’s exit in March, Paulson’s firm became Valeant’s biggest shareholder — with a stake of 5.7 per cent at the end of that month, based on data compiled by Bloomberg.

Paulson is taking the new role after the stock bounced back from recent lows in the past months, as chief executive officer Joseph Papa, who joined last year, raised the company’s outlook and sold a few assets to chip away at the debt. The shares are still down more than 80 per cent from their 2015 peak, after Valeant became embroiled in accounting and drug-pricing scandals. Ackman, who had been an active board member and fervent champion even during the rocky times, said the investment was a “huge mistake.”

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Paulson shot to fame betting on the collapse of the U.S. housing market in 2007. A decade later, the hedge-fund manager is struggling to persuade investors to stick with him after a string of missteps on everything from gold to drug stocks. The firm’s primary merger arbitrage strategy fell 25 per cent last year as drug stocks including Valeant, Allergan Plc and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. plunged.

Paulson’s firm has about $ 10 billion in assets, just $ 2 billion of which is outside capital, according to its most recent regulatory filing. Most of the remaining $ 8 billion is Paulson’s own fortune. Paulson founded it in 1994. At its peak in 2011, the firm oversaw $ 38 billion.

“With his significant business and financial expertise, John will be a strong addition to the board,” Papa said in a statement Monday. “His experience will be especially valuable as we continue to execute on our transformational strategy to turnaround Valeant.”

Paulson will become Valeant director on June 14, bringing the number of members to 11, according to the statement. Even after Ackman’s departure, Paulson won’t be the only big investor on the board. Robert Hale, a partner with hedge fund ValueAct, has been a director since August 2015. ValueAct boosted its stake to more than 5 per cent recently, and remains among the biggest holders after first investing in mid-2006 in what was then a small experimental-drug developer.

Paulson is joining Valeant while winding down his role as a director at American International Group Inc. Paulson was elected last year to the insurer’s board after proposing that then-chief executive officer Peter Hancock split the company into three separate businesses. Paulson’s fund sold AIG shares while he was on the board, and AIG has since replaced Hancock with Brian Duperreault. AIG said in April that Paulson wouldn’t stand for reelection “due to his other time commitments.”