Corporate finance chief quits Torex Retail broker

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The Independent Online

Evolution Securities, the joint broker and corporate adviser to Torex Retail, is hunting for a new head of corporate finance after Steve Roberts agreed to leave the investment bank after a string of high-profile corporate disasters.

Mr Roberts has left the bank "by mutual consent" after a meeting this week with Andrew Umbers, the chief executive of Evolution Securities. He will stay on at the bank until the end of March.

The timing of Mr Roberts' departure raised eyebrows, given Evolution's position as joint broker and corporate advisory to Torex Retail, the beleaguered software company that is the subject of a Serious Fraud Office investigation. However Mr Roberts had no direct role in raising funds for Torex Retail and joined the broker from the rival Collins Stewart in September 2004, after the company was floated. Mr Umbers said: "I fully understand Steve's reasons for leaving. We wish him the very best for the future and thank him for his contribution over the past two years."

Mr Roberts presided over a series of corporate disaster stories that tainted the reputation of Evolution. The most damaging was Regal Petroleum that suffered an astonishing 60 per cent drop in value after it failed to strike oil in Greece. Only weeks earlier, Evolution had raised £45m in the oil explorer.

BetonSports proved another problem after the online gaming specialist was forced to suspend, and eventually delist, its shares after the arrest of its chief executive in the US last year. The music group Sanctuary has also plagued the broker after a string of profits warnings wiped out 90 per cent of the company's value.

The significant loss in value at Billing Services Group and Smart Telecom after Evolution had raised funds has also damaged the broker's credibility.