Neil Woodford has broken his silence on the collapse of his investment firm and revealed he plans to start all over again in a tearful and defiant interview.
Speaking publicly for the first time since his business imploded in October 2019, exclusively to The Telegraph, the fund manager said he was “very sorry for what I did wrong”. But he lashed out at the administrator of Woodford Investment Management, Link Fund Solutions, and rejected widespread criticisms of his operating style.
Mr Woodford broke into tears as he defended the firm’s culture and denied claims its failure was partly caused by machismo and the presence of “yes men”.
Alongside his lieutenant Craig Newman, Mr Woodford is now preparing to launch a new investment firm based in Jersey, Woodford Capital Management Partners but vowed not to repeat his mistake of investing ordinary investors’ cash in illiquid start-ups, who were cut off from their money for months due to a shortage of cash.
The full interview can be read below.
Sadness, anger, defiance – and even an apology of sorts
After nearly two hours turning over the rubble of his collapsed investment empire, Neil Woodford begins crying. He gets up and briefly walks off camera to compose himself, leaving an empty chair at his West Country home as the star of the video call.
Britain’s most famous fund manager, now its most famous failed fund manager, finally cracks under questioning about the allegedly macho culture at Woodford Investment Management. Could that have contributed to its destruction? He looks hurt and wells up as he remembers the day he told staff the business was being wound down in October 2019. The tears follow.
“I found it very difficult,” Woodford recalls. “So when people say that sort of stuff about the organisation, about the culture, about the lies that have been told about the business and the people in it, that really, really hurts, because it wasn’t like that at all. It was an amazing place, with amazing people, who fought to the end.”
Woodford alternates between sadness and anger as he dissects his downfall in public for the first time. He is ready to say “sorry” to the ordinary investors who lost out on his disastrous bets, up to a point.
“I’m very sorry for what I did wrong,” he says. “What I was responsible for was two years of underperformance – I was the fund manager, the investment strategy was mine, I owned it, and it delivered a period of underperformance.” But he is furious at the company’s administrator Link Fund Solutions for closing Woodford Investment Management and insists, after everything, he would have been vindicated had it stayed open.
“I can’t be sorry for the things I didn’t do. I didn’t make the decision to suspend the fund, I didn’t make the decision to liquidate the fund. As history will now show, those decisions were incredibly damaging to investors, and they were not mine. They were Link’s decisions.”
One final meeting
A 4pm meeting on a Monday in October marked the end for Woodford Investment Management. The founder says he was told without warning that the suspended fund was being closed.
“This wasn’t a consultation, this was a fait accompli,” he recalls. He had argued in the months leading up to that day that closure would be “worst possible thing they could do” and would trigger a fire-sale of assets.
He didn’t leave the Link building for four hours after being told it was over, spending the evening writing to the City watchdog and urging his lawyers, Mischon de Reya, to fight the decision. But it was too late. The closure was announced the next day, forcing his hand on the wider business.