Astaire ditches buyout strategy

STOCKBROKER Astaire yesterday stunned the market after it announced a U-turn in strategy and the resignation of its senior management team.

Edward Vandyk – the broking veteran who took the helm last year following a bitter takeover battle and changed the firm’s name from Blue Oar to Astaire – stepped down as chief executive of Astaire and a director of parent firm Evolve Capital.

The move came after Vandyk spent the last year insisting consolidation is the only way forward for companies in the sector. He has led Astaire’s acquisition of such rivals as Dowgate Capital, Whim Gully Capital and St Helen’s Capital. But the strategy came to a halt with the attempted purchase of Hoodless Brennan, shelved after Astaire abandoned hope of securing regulatory approval for the deal.

“The board has concluded that it cannot continue to pursue the strategy of consolidation in the financial services sector. Discussions are being held with a number of parties with a view to considering alternative ownership arrangements,” Astaire said.

The firm also said it had received a £4m lawsuit against Corporate Synergy, a dormant holding company within the group, from Izodia – a now-defunct software firm which was investigated by the SFO in 2002, ultimately leading to the conviction of financier Gerald Smith for stealing £33m of the company’s assets. Vandyk briefly held a board position at Izodia prior to its downfall, but there was no suggestion that he had any involvement in the theft.

Astaire, which is listed in the claim in respect of compensation worth £25,000, said it would present a “vigorous defence” to the allegations.

Oliver Vaughan has resigned as chairman of Astaire but remains as chairman of Evolve. James Noble – formerly a director of both Astaire and Evolve – has resigned his role at Evolve to take the chair at Astaire.