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Profile: Waverton goodbye to Johim

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by James Phillipps on Jan 23, 2014 at 00:01

JO Hambro Investment Management’s rebranding as Waverton earlier this month was in some ways merely a change of name above the door, but to chief executive Hugh Grootenhuis it meant much more than that.

‘This is the third chapter in our history,’ he says. ‘The management and the Hambro family owned the business between 1986 and 2001 and then Credit Suisse acquired 100% of the company. We are now going back to the “owner-occupier” model and the rebranding is part of that progression of the business.’

Indeed, the adoption of the Waverton Investment Management name effectively marks the end of ‘Project Josh’, the in-house name given to the sale process, which started at the beginning of 2012 when Credit Suisse put the firm on the market.

‘The sale was an 18 month process, which we called “Project Josh”, to find a solution to them selling us,’ Grootenhuis says.

‘At one end of the scale, you can either sell to the highest bidder, which will probably be a big institution, and the firm disappears for all intents and purposes. At the other end of the scale you can try and own it yourselves and keep it Johim. Project Josh was about keeping Johim.’

He says both companies knew the transaction had to work for all parties involved and he gives the Swiss bank credit for ‘playing ball’ and accepting the offer from Bermuda National Limited (BNL) and Johim’s management team last August. He admits that Credit Suisse probably could have got more money by selling Johim to a larger institution, but it was aware of the risk that a lot of staff could end up walking out.

The private equity option was also ruled out, with Grootenhuis adamant that the management team did not ‘want to go through this again in three or four years’.

‘The process was long at 18 months, but we were very keen to stick to our wish-list and the management are all in it together,’ Grootenhuis recalls. ‘We all wrote cheques and what’s pleasing is that it’s gone deep into the company. The vast majority of our employees hold shares and all of the directors put in money.’

Indeed, management own 37.5% of the company with BNL, which has since itself rebranded to Somers, owning the rest. For Grootenhuis, Somers is the perfect partner. Meanwhile Duncan Saville and Charles Jillings of Somers’ parent group Utilico are well known to the management team. They are renowned as long-term investors and the tie-up will offer a number of opportunities to distribute through Waverton’s new sister companies.

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