Star Fund Manager Woodford Denies Role in Stobart ‘Conspiracy’

(Bloomberg) -- Neil Woodford, one of the U.K.’s best-known fund managers, told a London court Monday that he’s “shocked” by what he called “untrue” allegations that he set out to harm Stobart Group Ltd.

Woodford, the co-founder of Woodford Investment Management Ltd., is a witness in a court battle between the British infrastructure firm and its former Chief Executive Officer Andrew Tinkler that stems from a boardroom dispute at the FTSE 250-listed company. Funds managed by Woodford’s company own about a fifth of Stobart.

“I am shocked to see that Stobart has chosen to make allegations that I was a party to a ‘conspiracy’ to use ‘unlawful means’ to ‘injure the company,’ ” Woodford, a former star money manager at Invesco Perpetual, said in his witness statement.

In court Monday, Woodford said it was clear that Tinkler and Ferguson “could not coexist on the board,” and if he “was being forced” to choose between the two, he’d choose Tinkler.

Stobart, which provides services to British airports and railroad operators, accused Tinkler of conspiring with Woodford and others to try to remove Chairman Iain Ferguson. Tinkler denies any wrongdoing.

Starting in January, Tinkler “was actively campaigning for Ferguson to be ousted as chairman,” the company said in its earlier court filings.

Woodford Investment Management’s funds own just over 19.5 percent of Stobart Group’s shares, Woodford said in court on Monday.

Tinkler left the CEO post in July 2017 but remained as an executive director, agreeing to spend half his time on the company and half on a new venture, Stobart Capital, which would generate investment opportunities for the company, Stobart’s earlier filings say. A Stobart Group spokesman declined to comment.

The former CEO said in his court filings that it was “an understatement” to say that he was treated disgracefully.

Stobart’s “contentions that I was guilty of gross misconduct, and that I participated in a conspiracy are ill-judged and entirely without merit,” Tinkler said in the document.

The case is Stobart Group Limited & Anr v. William Andrew Tinkler & Anr, High Court of Justice - Business and Property Courts of England and Wales, Case No. LM-2018-000113

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