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Woodford was German, just for one day

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Neil Woodford’s back, and now he’s a thought leader:

Former fund manager Neil Woodford has said he is not “a villain” and blamed the collapse of his investment firm in part on economic and political issues in the wake of Brexit.

Woodford, whose fund company Woodford Investment Management collapsed in 2019, said in a new blog that he hoped to shed light on the events that led to his fund’s demise.

The “‘disgraced’ former fund manager”, as he describes himself, has a snazzy new website at woodfordviews.com, where in a nearly-1,000 word missive he promises “economic analysis and commentary” that will “focus on relevant facts and data without censorship from editors, pressure to toe a particular line or consensus thinking”. Exciting!

Mi nombre es Neil Woodford. Tengo 64 años y vivo en el suroeste de Inglaterra. Mis animales favoritos son los perros…

Woodford is famously a details man…

Former star fund manager Neil Woodford had a “defective” understanding of his responsibilities in the run-up to the collapse of his £3.7bn Equity Income Fund, the UK financial regulator said in its first public findings after a long-running probe.

…so FT Alphaville naturally had a poke around the digital gaff to see what details could be uncovered.

Woodford Views is one of several websites registered to Caldair Creative, which lists Jon Adair, a long-term ally of Woodford, and his wife Lisa as directors. Jon was the chief technology officer at Woodford Investment.

WHOIS registry data for Caldair suggests that it may not have been a simple process coming up with the Woodford Views name. Here are some of the other domains the company registered at the same time:

But anyway, what’s in a name?

More interesting was some text in the website’s footer, which says the site is Copyright © 2024 WRP GmbH:

That company name was repeated in its privacy policy:

It provoked raised eyebrows in the FTAV offices — it seemed strange that Woodford appeared to be operating through a German (or Austrian, or Swiss) company.

A WRP GmbH does exist. Or, rather, did: Wertstoffe Rohstoffe Pyrolese, a pyrolysis plant in Saxony, appears on Germany’s Handelsregister but has been insolvent since 2019. Surely this couldn’t be our Neil?

There might be problems if so. As European corporate governance fans will know, companies in German-speaking jurisdictions are typically required to carry an impressum on their sites, including details of their operations, registration number and an address.

Curious, Alphaville reached out to Woodford Views on Thursday morning, asking if the name was correct, where the business was registered, and — if it was really a company auf Deutsch — why “‘Britain’s answer to Warren Buffett’” had abandoned these shores.

Reply came there none, but by this afternoon, the references to WRP GmbH had disappeared from the site:

There might still be a European twist here. An email sent to mailing list registrants today says:

Bahnhofstrasse 21, 6300 Zug is also the address offered by Swiss Company, a service which allows services such as mail forwarding for foreigners wanting to set up a company in Switzerland.

Whatever is occurring, it’s not the first time Woodford has attempted a foreign adventure.

Cast your mind back to February 2021, when Woodford was trying to get his relaunch vehicle, WCM Partners, off the ground. MainFT:

The Jersey Financial Services Commission revealed on Wednesday that it had not yet received any application for authorisation from Woodford for a new, Jersey-based investment management company, even though these plans were “publicly announced in a press release” and publicised in a lengthy interview in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper on February 14.

Or, err, June that same year. MainFT:

Woodford initially said he planned to register the new fund management company in Jersey, but the island’s regulator swiftly scotched the plan…

Since then, WCM Partners — which has said it will only serve institutional investors — has turned up in corporate filings in the Cayman Islands and the US state of Delaware. In late April, the Cayman regulator said it hadn’t received an application for clearance to operate there.

And, with some inevitability, July 2022. Portfolio Adviser:

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.

Despite these previous setbacks and the German blip, we’re sure Woodford’s got everything under control this time — no more sloppy mistakes. Hell, he even has an Instagram!




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