Split-cap players team up to launch venture

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A clutch of the key players in the once-troubled split-capital investment trust industry, including most of Collins Stewart's former investment trust team, have joined forces to launch a new institutional stockbroking business, Fairfax.

Rolly Crawford, Collins Stewart's former head of investment trusts, who was the subject of an investigation by the regulator in 2004 and 2005, is a key figure behind the venture, with most of his former team in tow.

John Szymanowksi, a former UBS investment trust analyst suspended by his firm during the Financial Services Authority's split-cap investigation in 2004, is also part of the venture. Ivan Bowen Murphy, who worked with the split-cap supremo Chris Fishwick at Aberdeen Asset Management, is another director.

Since setting up at the start of the year, Fairfax has already advised on two property investment trust launches - Speymill Deutschland and Bulgarian Property Developments - which have raised €500m (£265m) between them.

The group is headed by the City financier Stefan Allesch-Taylor, who says he was approached by Mr Crawford and his colleagues last year. "They needed the finance to start up on their own and what we represented was an unobtrusive investment mandate," he said. "We weren't part of a big bank that would want to interfere with their ideas."

Mr Allesch-Taylor said he was unconcerned by several directors' involvement in the split-cap débâcle, saying he had carried out due diligence and was happy to work with the team.

It is unknown whether Mr Szymanowksi or Mr Crawford and his team were censured by the FSA after the split-cap investigation. Although decisions against several key individuals were published, many individuals were censured privately and ordered to retrain.

Mr Allesch-Taylor said Fairfax was exploring the possibility of breaking into the private equity sector and was considering working towards a float in London. His family trust owns 50 per cent of the company, while the remainder is owned by its employees. Mr Allesch-Taylor and his family trust are behind Tactica Asset Management, a fund management business established 18 months ago.