Woodford goes boutique with new fund plans

Michael Bow
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THE UK’s most powerful investor Neil Woodford will swap his role running £33bn of cash next year to join serial entrepreneur Peter Dubens’ low key private equity venture.

Woodford, who owns major stakes in a host of FTSE 100 firms, will join boutique outfit Oakley Capital when he quits his current role at fund giant Invesco Perpetual in April.

The move marks a major shift in direction for the star fund manager, who has enjoyed national prominence for his role in influencing deals such as the aborted merger between EADS and BAE Systems.

Dubens said Woodford would set up a new asset management business in-house at Oakley – although it is unlikely to be on the scale of Woodford’s current fund.

“We will fully support the transition and in the meantime we will provide an environment in which Neil can have the autonomy and flexibility to best serve the interests of clients,” Dubens said in a statement.

Woodford announced in October that he would quit Invesco Perpetual in April 2014 after 25 years at the company.

The firm has named Woodford’s lieutenant Mark Barnett as the new manager of his flagship funds, the high income and income funds.

Oakley, based in Knightsbridge, looks after about $1bn (£611m) for clients. It also has an M&A advisory arm for dealmaking work.


Just a stone’s throw from Oakley Capital’s Knightsbridge office sits a branch of upmarket Italian deli La Bottega. Entrepreneur Peter Dubens, Oakley’s founder, liked it so much he helped invest in it earlier this year. The move is characteristic of Dubens’ entrepreneurial style – get in early and sell later for a hefty profit. His biggest deals have been in the communications sector. He bought 365 Media and sold it to British Sky Broadcasting for £102m. He went on to merge several businesses into an entity called Pipex Communications before selling its broadband assets for over £370m. The rest of the company morphed into Daisy Group, the FTSE listed firm that Dubens still chairs today.

Dubens is also notable for his more niche consumer investments. He is best known to a certain generation for bringing hypercolour T-shirts – the ones that changed colour with body heat – to the UK in the 1980s, and later sold the business to Coats Viyella for £8m. He then bought the licence to distribute Vans trainers in the UK before selling it back to the parent company for a hefty profit. As if that wasn’t enough he was the ‘Pete’ in Pete & Johnny’s – P&J– Smoothies, which was later sold to Pepsi, and he also owns the gym Madonna used in Chelsea, KX. Duben set up Oakley Capital in 2007 as a private equity company. Woodford has always been good at spotting good companies – maybe one of the reasons he’s picked Duben’s Oakley as his next home.