Fink to hand over the reins at hedge fund manager Man Group

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Stanley Fink, consistently among the best-paid of Britain's chief executives, revealed yesterday he is to take a back seat at Man Group.

After forging the former commodities broker into the world's biggest listed hedge-fund manager over the past two decades, he is to step down in April.

Mr Fink will become non-executive deputy chairman and retain his role as chairman of the strategic investment committee of Man Investments.

Peter Clarke, the finance director, will become Man's chief executive. He has worked for Man for 13 years and joined the board in 1997, becoming finance director three years later and group deputy chief executive last year. His replacement will be named in due course, Man said.

Mr Fink, who will be 49 this month, took over in 2000. Since then, funds under management have surged from $4.7bn to $54bn (£37bn). Over the six years, Man has delivered an impressive total return to shareholders of 487.4 per cent, against 18.6 per cent by the FTSE All Share index.

The shares have more than quadrupled during that time. They eased 4p to 432p yesterday on the surprise news of Mr Fink's departure, valuing the London-based company at £8.24bn. At slightly more than $1.3bn, Man's profits before tax for the year to the end of March were 51 per cent higher than over the previous 12 months.

Man fortunes have soared in line with those of the wider hedge-fund industry. Hedge funds deploy a broader range of investment strategies across a greater range of markets - from currencies to commodities to shares - than traditional long-only fund managers. That flexibility has seen them typically deliver far more generous returns that have attracted ever-increasing investment from pension funds, big City institutions and the very rich.

There are now an estimated 8,000 hedge funds managing more than $1.5 trillion.

Harvey McGrath, Man's chairman, said: "Stanley has indicated to the board his wishes to become non-executive, not least in order to be able to commit more time to personal interests, in particular his philanthropic activities." The group is reviewing the future of its brokerage arm, Man Financial, Mr McGrath said.

Mr Fink, a trained accountant, overcame a benign brain tumour in 2004, returning to work three months after a successful operation. Analysts said he has increasingly concentrated on his extensive charitable work of late.