Investments  

What Neil Woodford did next

On the night he launched the first fund, in May 2014, the former fund manager spoke of the poignancy of seeing his children set off for school for the first time.

He became a father in his 50s and spoke of the impact of long days on the road to the provincial towns and cities to promote his new venture.   

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The manager remains convinced that many of the early stage companies he invested in and which suffered sharp share price falls are undervalued, and continues to be passionate about investing in early stage companies.

When the Equity Income fund was performing poorly, and many were blaming the unquoted holdings, he insisted it was this segment of the portfolio that was the best performing, beating the quoted companies. 

That view was largely academic, and the conversations and catch-ups with which he filled his day were mostly the result of his own interest in markets and investing. 

But that all changed in February. 

A group of investors known as WG Group had been in exclusive discussions to buy the stakes in 15 of the illiquid companies that are still in the shut Equity Income fund. 

In February, that period of exclusivity ended, and then some of the calls and chats that filled Mr Woodford’s day took a different turn.

Individuals and groups of investors began to call him, to get his opinion on the portfolio of illiquid assets that investment bank PJT Partners were back on the road marketing, having been appointed by Link.

Mr Woodford knew PJT well; they were originally brought in by WIM to sell the stakes in illiquid assets last year when trouble hit and WIM had first committed to selling all of the unquoted investments in the Equity Income fund.

They are still trying to sell the stakes, at the request of Link, and now these stakes are back on the market; the informal conversations with Mr Woodford have become became slightly more formal.

A group of institutional investors and family offices have come together, to potentially work with him to acquire the unquoted holdings. 

It is a small group, and there are no retail investors involved.

Different conversations between the former fund manager and those associated with him have focused on different areas, and different structures for any deal, and any collective vehicle that might be created.

There is no guarantee that any transaction will happen, though if it does, it is likely to provide relief for investors trapped in the rump of the fund.

The most liquid holdings have been sold, and clients received a payment in January. 

If a group associated with Mr Woodford, and others do buy the stakes, it would mean the rump of the fund would be wound up more quickly and cash returned to investors.