Oakley Capital: The firm behind Woodford’s new venture

Neil Woodford’s resignation from Invesco Perpetual in October was by far the biggest story in a year full of big-name fund manager moves and departures.

And it was followed by the news this morning that Oakley Capital, a specialist private equity and venture capital firm, is going to provide the backing for Mr Woodford’s new venture.

In a minimalist press release this morning Oakley stated it was to “provide the infrastructure” to allow the star equity income manager to run money for retail and institutional investors.

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What this means is unclear, but founder Peter Dubens referred to Mr Woodford’s aim to “create his own transformational asset management business soon after joining Oakley Capital”.

He added: “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.”

This strongly implies that in the next four months a structure will be put in place to ensure Mr Woodford can hit the ground running when he leaves Invesco at the end of April.

It could save the manager months of work and a huge amount of money if it means he does not have to source all the back office staff, administration, computer systems and compliance help himself - all of which are becoming increasingly costly and burdensome for small fund management companies.

Oakley Capital

The company, based near Sloane Square in south-west London, describes itself as “an asset management and financial advisory business” responsible for more than $1bn. It was founded in 2007 by entrepreneur Peter Dubens, a low-profile but well-respected investor.

Among Oakley’s best-known investments is Time Out magazine, which is owned by the group’s private equity arm, but it also runs a corporate finance business, a fund of hedge funds and a venture capital business.

Backing what is likely to be, by comparison, a fairly simple equity investment business seems a bit of a departure for Oakley, but teaming up with Mr Woodford is no doubt a significant coup for the firm.

Peter Dubens

Mr Woodford is best known for his stellar track record managing UK equity income funds, but in recent years he has also backed some tiny UK startup businesses, including investments in biotech companies. In the £10.2bn Invesco Perpetual Income fund, he has more than 6 per cent invested in companies of less than £250m in size, and a similar proportion of the £13.9bn High Income fund is backing micro-cap businesses.

Oakley founder Mr Dubens also has an impressive – if little-known – track record in startups, which may well have attracted Mr Woodford’s attention.

Mr Dubens has built and backed several successful businesses, including 365 Media Group which he sold to BSkyB for more than £100m and early internet service provider Pipex, bought by Tiscali in 2007 for more than £200m.

Oakley Capital also runs ProFounders Capital, a venture capital company which has backed companies including Twitter application Tweetdeck – which Twitter itself bought in 2011 – and car hire firm EasyCar, started by EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-loannou.