For three decades, Crispin Odey presided over London’s financial community, a major financial mogul known for taking big bets – and reaping big profits when they proved right.
But in little more than a week, his hedge fund is suddenly on the brink of dissolution, rocked by the latest sexual assault and harassment allegations against its 64-year-old founder.
The firm, Odey Asset Management, said Thursday it was in “advanced discussions” to transfer funds and staff to other firms. The reason, it noted with perhaps extreme understatement, was that it had “become clear that some investment management activities of the partnership are affected by recent events.”[ads1];
In a sign that investors were losing confidence in the company, Odey Asset Management said it would shut down one of its funds and had stopped investors from withdrawing their money from others, after what the firm described as “a significant level of redemption requests.” In the hedge fund world, such a move, known as “gating,” is considered a drastic step meant to avoid what amounts to a run on the bank.
It is unclear how much money remains with Odey Asset Management, which oversaw $4.9 billion earlier this year.
Those incidents were sparked on June 8 by a nearly 7,900-word investigation in The Financial Times, in which 13 women said Odey had assaulted or abused them – at the firm’s lavish Mayfair offices, in his London townhouse and at his mansion in the west of England. Many of the women quoted also said that Odey’s behavior was known throughout the firm.
In response, Odey Asset Management said it treated allegations like this “extremely seriously” and had “robust policies and procedures in place” to comply with the law and financial regulations.
Within two days of the article being published, the firm said it had removed Mr. Odey from the partnership. The firm’s financial counterparties — including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, all of which provided key banking services to the firm — cut ties.
The chair of the House of Commons finance committee, Harriett Baldwin, this week asked the Financial Conduct Authority, one of the country’s top financial regulators, to answer questions about its oversight of Odey Asset Management.
Among the questions Baldwin put to the authority was the scope of its previous investigations into Odey and its broader work overseeing firms’ handling of sexual misconduct allegations.
The likely dissolution of Odey marks a payoff for the founder, who stood out from London’s pinstriped financial crowd with an aristocratic swagger image and a willingness to take counterintuitive bets that made him big money.
The financier, whose full name is Robin Crispin William Odey, was born into a family of industrialists and his grandfather was a Conservative lawmaker. Mr. Odey was educated at elite British institutions, including Harrow School and Oxford University. Still, he faced money problems as his family fell into financial ruin. (He once described his father as a “waste from start to finish,” whose debts forced the sale of the family home.)
After graduating from Oxford, Mr. Odey turned to banking as a means of recovering his fortune. He struck out on his own in 1991, forming Odey Asset Management as a vehicle for his gut-instinct trading style.
That penchant for big bets often paid off, as when he bet against British banks before the financial crisis in 2008. At its peak, the firm managed more than $13 billion.
But he often lost money too. The firm’s main fund lost nearly 50 percent in 2016 due to bad bets.
His fortune made him a financial celebrity, and he was a major donor to Britain’s ruling Conservative Party. (Kwasi Kwarteng, whose brief stint last year as the country’s finance minister under Prime Minister Liz Truss shook investors’ confidence in the government, previously worked for Mr Odey’s firm.)
Mr. Odey also became an outspoken supporter of Britain leaving the European Union — although he drew some criticism for also making 220 million pounds, or $280 million, from market moves linked to the event.
In an Odey-esque flourish, he quoted an Italian expression, “Il mattino ha l’oro in bocca,” or “The morning has gold in its mouth,” to the BBC the day after the Brexit vote.
The allegations of sexual abuse described by The Financial Times were not the first to be made against Odey; previous claims were made by The Times of London, Bloomberg News and a podcast by Tortoise Media. In 2021, he was put on trial for an allegation of indecent assault involving an employee of the firm. He was acquitted by the presiding judge, who told him: “You leave this courthouse with your good character intact.”
Since then, Odey and his firm appeared poised for a recovery: The flagship fund returned 152 percent last year, largely due to his highly profitable bets on UK government bonds, influenced by the short-term economic policy. introduced by his former employee, Mr. Kwarteng.