A senior figure is stepping down from one of the largest investment trusts managed by Neil Woodford, as the embattled stockpicker’s current woes continue to cause ripples across his network.
Steven Harris is to resign from the board of Woodford Patient Capital Trust (WPCT), a major investment portfolio currently run by under-fire investor Neil Woodford.
The departure of Harris, the boss of Circassia Pharmaceuticals and an ally of Woodford, will likely be seen as a fresh blow for the beleaguered stockpicker, whose flagship Equity Income fund was suspended in June.
Troubles at Woodford’s Equity Income fund has dented the share price of FTSE-250 listed WPCT, which has been suffering strained relations with its once-star fund manager in recent months.
In July it emerged that Woodford cashed in on £1m of shares in the WPCT, risking a fallout with directors at the firm and sparking speculation over Woodford’s position.
Jane Tufnell, who has spent the majority of her career at a firm she co-founded called Ruffer Investment Management, will replace Harris as an independent non-executive director.
Susan Searle, chair of WPCT, said: “I am pleased to welcome Jane to the board of WPCT. I believe that her fund management expertise and familiarity with investment trusts will bring valuable experience to the Board and I look forward to working with her during this important period for WPCT.”
She added: “I would also like to thank Steven for his contribution to WPCT over the past four years.”
Read more: Suspended fund’s holdings take another hit
Over the weekend Neil Woodford defended his under-fire investment strategy, citing “unfavourable” conditions and a momentum-driven market for the recent failures within his flagship fund.
In its half-year report released on the weekend, Woodford’s Equity Income Fund said that the current market has shown “little or no regard” to the fundamental value of assets being bought or sold, consequently hitting the group’s “disciplined, valuation-oriented investment approach”.
The firm also reiterated Woodford’s apology to suspended fund investors in the report, saying: “We understand that many investors are disappointed by performance and frustrated by the fund’s suspension – and we are extremely sorry for this situation. We continue to reposition the portfolio in readiness for its reopening later in the year.”
Woodford has pledged to deliver a more liquid portfolio when it is expected to reopen in December, investing more in FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 index constituents.
In recent months Woodford has embarked on a fire sale of offload some major holdings in a bid to shore up the health of his troubled fund, which was suspended in June following a barrage of withdrawals.
Investors in the Equity Income Fund have not been able to access their money since 3 June.