Beleaguered Man Group boss Clarke heads for the exit

World's biggest listed hedge fund's chief leaves with a pay-off after investors' patience snaps over backfiring performance
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The Independent Online

The beleaguered boss of the world's biggest listed hedge fund yesterday bowed to pressure and quit with a pay-off worth at least $925,000 (£576,000).

Man Group's chief executive, Peter Clarke, whose $7m pay package drew fierce criticism earlier this year in the so-called shareholder spring, has been battling for some time to turn around the stuttering performance of the business, which has been hit by the misfiring of its flagship AHL fund.

But investor patience finally snapped yesterday as Man announced that Mr Clarke would be replaced by the chief operating officer, Manny Roman, from 28 February.

Mr Roman joined the group in 2010 when Man bought GLG, the hedge fund he co-founded, for $1.6bn. Many in the City believe Man paid too high a price for the deal.

A company spokeswoman said Mr Clarke would be paid his full salary as a consultant to Mr Roman for a year, although he will not be entitled to a bonus for 2012.

The chief executive, who had a personal holding of nearly 5.2 million shares in the business, will also keep his share options, although these are largely underwater after Mr Clarke oversaw a precipitous 77 per cent plunge in the share price since the beginning of last year. The stock rose 4.96 per cent, or 3.65p, to 77.3p on news of his exit.

The company has $60bn under management but has been bleeding cash as investors take their money elsewhere, and dropped out of the FTSE 100 index in June. The firm swooped for the "fund of funds" manager FRM in the summer, boosting assets by more than $8bn, although the underlying business is less healthy, with more than $2.2bn pulled out in the three months to 30 September.

Mr Clarke, who joined Man from the investment banking industry in 1993 and took the helm in March 2007, has been stripping costs out of the business, with more than $200m in savings under way. He also presided over a boardroom shake-up in the summer which saw WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell's son Jonathan become chief financial officer.

But Man has faced severe difficulties with AHL, the algorithm-driven "black box" fund which makes money by picking out trends and trading, and has suffered badly as a result of stock-market volatility and quantitative easing by several central banks.

AHL, which accounts for more than half of Man's profits, is down 12 per cent since 2009 and remained 14 per cent below peak in the three months to September.

Arun Melmane, analyst at Canaccord Genuity, said: "His departure doesn't come as a great surprise. It feels like he is now paying for the GLG acquisition, which was overpriced in hindsight. AHL still has a disproportionate impact on Man's revenues. If you look at equity markets, AHL is momentum driven; it needs long-term trends and lower volatility to consistently make money."

Mr Clarke has tried to diversify by siphoning off $1.5bn of the AHL cash under a new "evolution" fund vehicle, which is up 18 per cent this year.

Shore Capital's Owen Jones said: "Evolution is doing well, but it is too little, too late. Man is still more expensive than their competitors and there's a little bit of inertia there. They also paid a lot for GLG and it hasn't come through to earnings."

Roman emperor manny takes on mantle

Emmanuel "Manny" Roman will be paid a $1m-a-year basic salary when he takes over from Peter Clarke next year, but this is little more than chicken feed to a man worth around £130m.

The keen wine collector will not formally gain the title of chief executive until February, but City analysts say the current chief operating officer is already the real power behind the throne at the hedge-fund giant.

The Goldman Sachs veteran of 17 years joined GLG as a partner in 2005, before hitting the jackpot in 2010 when Man came in with a vastly overpriced $1.6bn takeover. At the time of the merger, GLG was leaner than its larger rival, with 300 staff managing $24bn against Man's 1,600 staff and $40bn in assets. Since then several Man executives have been eased out in favour of GLG staff.

Mr Roman, brasher than the mild mannered Mr Clarke, may yet sharpen the axe to trim more fat.