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Martin Gilbert paves way for comeback with £3m investment

The former Standard Life Aberdeen boss is part of a consortium that has acquired a 29.8% stake in AssetCo.

Martin Gilbert paves way for comeback with £3m investment

Former Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) boss Martin Gilbert is gearing up for a spectacular return with a £3m investment in London-listed firm AssetCo.

Gilbert and former SLA colleague Peter McKellar were part of a group of investors acquiring a 29.8% minority stake in AssetCo.

A large chunk of the shares were bought from Harwood Capital Management, which sold 1.3 million shares, reducing its ownership of AssetCo from 45% to 26%.

AssetCo, which leases fire engines, successfully sued its former auditor Grant Thornton for more than £20m over its failure to expose a fraud at the company.

It is understood the backers were drawn to the firm’s £30m cash position and intend to use this to acquire small businesses in the financial services industry.

Last week it emerged AssetCo had invested £4.7m in River and Mercantile as it took a 2.9% stake in the business. The move came shortly after Gilbert joined the firm as deputy chair.

According to Sky News, Gilbert has decided to use AssetCo as his investment vehicle following talks with Christopher Mills, the founder of Harwood Capital Management.

‘The next few years will see significant investment opportunities in the financial services sector as some of the pressures that the industry faces from regulation, fee pressure, technology and changing client preferences force further, and arguably a faster pace of change,’ Gilbert said in a stock exchange announcement.

‘We believe that AssetCo can be a platform to make strategic investments across the sector and to bring active management to such opportunities.’

According to the announcement, posted this morning, Gilbert purchased 650,000 shares at 475p worth £3.1m, leaving him with a 9.9% stake in the firm.

McKellar, who was head of global private markets at ASI, bought 225,000 shares worth £1.1m, leaving him with a 3.4% stake.

The duo invested alongside multi-asset fund manager Toscafund Asset Management, which bought 12.2% of the firm. Toscafund is also chaired by Gilbert.

Gilbert and McKellar will join the board as non-executive directors. AssetCo chairman Tudor Davies and non-executive directors Mills and Mark Butcher will remain on the board.

Gilbert stepped back from his role as co-chief executive of Standard Life Aberdeen in March 2019, before retiring from the asset management giant in May.

McKellar retired from ASI in September after two decades with the firm.

Gilbert, 65, co-founded Aberdeen Asset Management in 1983.  He built the business through a series of acquisitions, including the purchase of Prolific from Scottish Provident in 1996, which tripled the firm’s assets under management to £10bn.

He tripled assets once again nine years later to £72bn, swooping on Deutsche Bank’s UK asset management business.

In March 2017 he led the merger of Aberdeen Asset Management and Standard Life, which created the UK’s largest asset management firm, and the second biggest in Europe, with £660bn in assets under management.

In November 2019, Gilbert became chair of digital challenger bank Revolut. He is also a senior independent non-executive director at Glencore, and a non-exec at Saranac Partners.

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