Woodford pulls the plug on UK comeback venture

Application has been filed to strike WCM Partners from the Companies House register

Neil Woodford’s grand return to UK fund management looks set to come to an end even before it got off the ground.

WCM Partners, the comeback vehicle through which the disgraced stock picker hoped to “rebuild” his investment empire, has filed a DS01 form with Companies House to be stricken from the register.

Filing the application, which costs between £8-£10, is the first step to dissolve a limited company in the UK. HMRC and other interested parties must be notified beforehand and business assets and accounts must be dealt with. A majority of the company’s directors must also sign off on the application.

However, the application can be withdrawn in the event it is no longer eligible to be struck off, if it becomes insolvent, for example, or if the applicant changes their mind.

WCM Partners’ application is processing and will be available on the Companies House site in up to 10 days’ time.

Writing on the wall

The writing has been on the wall for some time that WCM Partners was not long for this world. Its website, which once contained information about the company’s launch and contact details, has been blank since the start of the year.

Hawthorn Advisors, the point contact for press-related enquiries, told Portfolio Adviser it was no longer working with WCM Partners.

The company has been shedding directors, with ex-RBS man Gavin Petken jumping ship in mid-January, followed by Jonathan Adair less than a month later.

Adair and Kristian Penttila, who were among several ex-Woodford Investment Management employees to follow the fallen star manager to his new venture, set up their own venture called Curated Capital in February.

A document from March also showed Woodford and his right-hand man, Craig Newman, offloaded the entirety of their shares in WCM Partners to COO Paul Green. Newman and Green are the last remaining directors, according to Companies House, with Woodford himself having never been listed as a director.

Woodford’s comeback, launched 16 months after Woodford IM folded and amid an ongoing Financial Conduct Authority investigation into the collapse of his flagship equity income fund, prompted a fierce industry backlash.

Teaming up with Acacia Research, which made a tidy profit after buying a handful of biotech stocks from Woodford’s defunct fund, WCM Partners had been slated to launch in Jersey. But, following backlash from the Jersey regulator and the Financial Conduct Authority, he soon set his sights on the Cayman Islands.

Although a company called WCM Partners Healthcare (GP) Ltd and an investment fund, WCM Healthcare Fund LP, appear on the Cayman Islands General Registry, neither appears on the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority’s (Cima) list of authorised firms. A company called WCM Partners was also incorporated in Delaware in May.

As Woodford’s plans for a UK comeback fizzle, investors in the Woodford Equity Income fund are still waiting for their money back, three years after the fund’s suspension.

The fund’s authorised corporate director, Link Fund Solutions, has warned the wind-up could push into 2023. Harcus Parker and Leigh Day are jointly mounting a legal challenge against Link for its alleged mishandling of the fund.

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