Neil Woodford says ‘sorry’ as he announces new investment fund

2 weeks ago
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Neil Woodford

Reuters

Neil Woodford, the star fund manager who fell from grace when his flagship fund was wound up in 2019, has said he will set up a new investment firm.

Mr Woodford told the Sunday Telegraph he was “sorry” for what he did wrong after investors suffered big losses.

But he denied claims his leadership caused Woodford Equity Income Fund to fail, adding that he could have rescued it if it had stayed open.

Stockbrokers AJ Bell said investors would have “little sympathy”.

Mr Woodford built his reputation as a star stock picker over 26 years at the City firm Invesco. An investment of £1,000 in his first funds would have returned £25,000 by the time he left.

But after he set up his own business several investments turned sour, causing the value of his funds to plummet and investors – most of them not professionals – to pull out millions.

As a result, his flagship Woodford Equity Income Fund was first suspended, then shut down, with Mr Woodford removed as investment manager in October 2019.

The following day he said he would resign from his remaining investment funds and wind down his investment company, Woodford Investment Management.

‘The strategy was mine’

Speaking publicly about the affair for the first time since 2019, Mr Woodford told the Telegraph: “I’m very sorry for what I did wrong. What I was responsible for was two years of underperformance – I was the fund manager, the investment strategy was mine, I owned it and it delivered a period of underperformance.”

But he said claims its failure was partly caused by a macho culture at Woodford Investment Management were “lies” that “really hurt”.

He also accused the company’s administrator, Link Fund Solutions, of shutting down Woodford Equity Income Fund too soon. Many of the shares it had bought were in drugmakers whose fortunes have improved during the pandemic.

“I didn’t make the decision to suspend the fund, I didn’t make the decision to liquidate the fund.

“As history will now show, those decisions were incredibly damaging to investors, and they were not mine.”

The BBC has asked Link for a comment.

Under investigation

As a result of the suspension of the Woodford Equity Income Fund, many investors were unable to access their money for months.

Mr Woodford and his team had bought stakes in too many unlisted companies, which made selling assets quickly to fund a flood of redemption requests extremely difficult.

The events leading up to the fund’s collapse are being investigated by watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority.

Stockbrokers AJ Bell said: “The news that Neil Woodford is looking to make a comeback will come as a surprise to many, especially those thousands of embattled investors who are still waiting to get the last of their money back.

“With around £200m of money still stuck in his previous fund and original investors back in 2014 sitting on losses of over 25% and many thousands who invested later suffering much bigger losses, there will be little sympathy for Woodford and the comments he made in his recent interview.”

Mr Woodford told the Telegraph his new investment firm, called Woodford Capital Management Partners, would be based in Jersey and would only raise money from professionals.

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