Woodford to face High Court over Stobart saga
Star fund manager named as a witness in trial over attempted boardroom coup that gripped the City
THE star fund manager Neil Woodford faces a grilling at the High Court over his role in the failed boardroom coup attempt at Stobart Group earlier this year.
Mr Woodford, 58, has been named as a witness for Andrew Tinkler, the former Stobart chief executive who was sacked as an executive director and then tried to unseat the company’s chairman Iain Ferguson.
Mr Tinkler, a major shareholder, drew support from Mr Woodford in an unsuccessful campaign to vote Mr Ferguson off the board at in the Southend Airport owner’s annual general meeting in July.
The fund manager, a long-standing ally of Mr Tinkler, is due to be crossexamined by Stobart’s barrister over claims he was involved in a potentially lucrative plan to buy a stake in Stobart’s airline business.
Stobart alleges Mr Woodford, Mr Tinkler and Philip Day, the Edinburgh Woollen Mill owner, aimed to form a consortium that would have ended up with a 30pc share of the business “at no cost … to the disadvantage of the company’s shareholders as a whole”.
Stobart has launched a High Court claim against Mr Tinkler for breach of his fiduciary duties as a company director, breach of contract and using unlawful means in his effort to oust Mr Ferguson, including by engaging the support of Mr Woodford. His fund, Woodford Investment Management, held a 20pc stake in Stobart.
The row, which gripped the City over the summer, is due to be reignited in a trial starting next week. It will bring public scrutiny of Mr Woodford’s dealings. It comes after what Mr Woodford described as “the most difficult period of my entire career”. Some of his funds have underperformed the stock market and investors have withdrawn billions.
The trial is also due to focus on the role of Cenkos, Stobart’s broker, which was forced to resign as a result of its ties to Mr Tinker and Mr Woodford.
Mr Woodford declined to comment on his forthcoming appearance in the witness box.
Mr Tinkler denies wrongdoing and has in return alleged he was unlawfully sacked. He has claimed defamation against five Stobart directors.
The bitter dispute led to a series of leaks of Stobart internal correspondence, including emails in which Mr Tinkler complained he was not paid enough.
He criticised Avril Palmer-Baunack, another former chief executive who now runs British Car Auctions, claiming he was paid a “pittance” and “might have been better with a pair of t---”.
Mr Tinkler apologised for the comments.
Last month, following a petition by lawyers for Mr Tinkler, the High Court ruled Stobart must disclose details of current chief executive Warwick Brady’s potential £18m cash bonus scheme and the contract between Ryanair and Southend Airport.