Plot thickens in Bramdean battle after Horlick is revealed as bidder

Name disclosed ahead of EGM called by Tchenguiz
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The Independent Online

Nicola Horlick, dubbed the City's "superwoman", has been unmasked as the mystery bidder for Bramdean Alternatives, the fund she set up and manages, putting her on a collision course with the fund's rebel investor Vincent Tchenguiz.

The independent board of Bramdean Alternatives released a statement yesterday revealing Ms Horlick's investment vehicle Petersfield Asset Management had approached with an indicative offer at the end of April.

The board announced on 21 May that it was "continuing to give this approach detailed consideration" while the bidder conducted due diligence. It also pledged to reveal the bidder's identity no later than yesterday.

Ms Horlick is chief executive of fund manager Bramdean Asset Management (BAM), which she set up in 2004.

There are, as yet, no details on those backing bid, but it is understood Ms Horlick wants to present shareholders with an alternative to the proposals to have the fund wound up.

A spokeswoman for BAM said the bid's details, including the price, "were not ready yet", and would not be presented before the extraordinary general meeting called by Mr Tchenguiz's investment vehicle, Elsina, this month. One fund investor questioned how the due diligence was still going on for a fund Ms Horlick set up and ran.

Elsina has called for the board to be ousted and the fund liquidated, saying its proposals were backed by more than half the investors. Elsina, which owns a 28.7 per cent stake in Bramdean Alternatives, declined to comment.

The situation at Bramdean Alternatives has driven a wedge between Ms Horlick and Mr Tchenguiz, who used to talk every week and still work in the same building.

Rumours yesterday that peace talks had broken out were understood to be wide of the mark, but the two sides are expected to meet before the EGM.

Petersfield first approached Bramdean Alternatives on 17 March, the fund's board said. Ms Horlick manages Bramdean Alternatives' investments, but is not on the board.

A spokesman for the board said: "The board will treat the offer the same as any other." Yet it realised that Ms Horlick's bid could cause issues for shareholders and held discussions with the UK Listing Authority over her close links to the fund.

They decided that the knowledge could influence voting behaviour at the EGM so revealed the name "as an exercise in transparency and underlining the independence of the board", the board's spokesman said.

Bramdean Alternatives invests in hedge fund and private equity assets. It has suffered in the downturn with net asset value at $181.6m in April, down from $257.7m when it listed in 2007.

Ms Horlick was known as "superwoman" after becoming one of the most prominent women in the City at a young age while bringing up five children. Her reputation was dented last year after she revealed Bramdean Alternatives had lost heavily from investing with Bernard Madoff.

Mr Tchenguiz said last month that the fund could be worth nothing in two years, after the share price has dropped by half in the past two years. He wants to wind up the fund as he does not think a sale will bring satisfactory returns.