Eleventh hour win for Woodford in Stobart case

Infrastructure firm drops several claims against former CEO backed by equities star

Stobart has withdrawn claims at the eleventh hour against former chief executive Andrew Tinkler that he improperly racked up £5m of expenses, in a win for Neil Woodford, who has sided with the ousted boss despite the fact he holds a large stake in the infrastructure business.

Court documents reveal Tinkler spent £1.6m on private jet and helicopter travel provided by aviation companies he owns between 2015 and 2018. The documents also show he spent £2.9m on corporate entertainment, billing Stobart for racing events, and a £50,000 Range Rover that he won at a Cancer Research UK auction and was used by his daughter.

In addition to the expense claims, a £4m tax liability has also been thrown out.

Stobart had previously demanded repayment for the expenses, which were the subject of a bitter court battle that pitched Woodford against several of his peers in the asset management industry. The case came to a close on Thursday.

Woodford Investment Management alerted Portfolio Adviser on Friday afternoon via its external communications agency that the claims had been dismissed.

However, Stobart sticks by its remaining accusations against Tinkler, including that he and Woodford were involved in a conspiracy to injure the business. Tinkler has rejected Stobart’s allegations and has counter-sued the firm on unfair dismissal grounds.

Judge Jonathan Russen, who presided over the trial, will give a ruling at the High Court on a date to be determined.

Woodford dismisses conspiracy claims

In November, Woodford dismissed Stobart bosses’ conspiracy claims in written testimony presented before the High Court as untrue and going against the interest of his investors. “I owe duties to the funds I manage, and it is in the best interests of these funds for Stobart to be as successful as possible,” he said in a witness statement.

Woodford owns a 19.63% stake in Stobart. The stock is the 10th-largest holding in his flagship Equity Income fund, making up 2.61% of the portfolio, and also appears in his Income Focus fund (1.11%).

His support for Tinkler put him on the opposing side of former employer Invesco in an embittered boardroom battle that was the precursor to the courtroom battle.

Tinkler was shown the door in June after he told shareholders and employees that he would be using his shares to vote against the re-election of Iain Ferguson as chairman and instead install billionaire Peter Day. He has also been accused of inappropriate behaviour.

Woodford has previously described Tinkler as “an unconventional, straight talking, honourable man” and has stated he is key to the future success of the business.

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