Nutrition products marketer Herbalife is locked in a PR war with hedge fund manager Bill Ackman with outside PR counsel engaged to help navigate daily skirmishes playing out in the press.

Ackman, who runs Pershing Square Capital Management and is betting heavily against Herbalife, called the company a pyramid scheme last month in a widely reported and lengthy investor conference presentation (PDF).

Slide from Pershing Square presentation
The PR push, which includes help from Global Strategy Group and Edelman, includes a website,, outlining Ackman's criticisms of its multilevel marketing business model of selling to sales reps.

Herbalife, which operated for years overseas before growing its U.S. operations and is based in Los Angeles, has blasted Ackman's "malicious attack" as misinformed and inaccurate. Barbara Henderson is senior VP of corporate communications for Herbalife, which is working with Joele Frank, Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher and GFBunting.

The company says its operates at the highest ethical and quality standards, hiring outside experts to ensure its operations comply with laws and regulations. "Herbalife is not an illegal pyramid scheme," said a statement responding to Ackman.

Herbalife presentation slide
Herbalife offered a nearly point-by-point rebuttal of Ackman's Dec. 20 presentation with its own investor pitch (PDF) on Jan. 10 in New York.

Joele Frank has tussled with Ackman before. It helped helped Procter & Gamble and Canadian Pacific Railway in proxy battles against the hedge fund titan last year, and backed Target in a similar battle in 2009.

Slate dubbed the showdown the "Great Herbalife War of 2013," after another hedge fund, Third Point Capital, entered to fray last week to back Herbalife by taking a more than eight percent stake. Writes Matthew Yglesias, "Herbalife's various accounting and business practices are now being but under the microscope in a way that doesn't happen to most companies. If the company survives, it'll be by withstanding scrutiny rather than flying under the radar -- exactly the way it should be."