The Business On... Richard Breeden, founder, Breeden Capital Management


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Is he the former chairman of the US Securities & Exchange Commission?

The very same. It's a case of gamekeeper turned poacher. After running the American investment regulator from 1989 to 1993, and then his own high-powered (and high-paid) firm of securities lawyers, Mr Breeden is now focused on running a hedge fund.

Wasn't he Mr Corporate Governance?

Indeed. At one point, he looked like becoming the first "corporate governance billionaire", the go-to guy when courts needed to appoint an ethics monitor to enforce a legal settlement, or non-executive directors need to clean house after a corporate governance scandal. He is the man who wrote that Conrad Black operated his media empire as a "corporate kleptocracy", after which the mogul lost control of The Daily Telegraph and ultimately ended up in jail.

How's the investing going?

Let's just say it is not as easy as it looks. When he set up Breeden Capital Management in 2005, it was greeted with scepticism bordering on cynicism. He may boast a Stanford and Harvard education and a decade in government service but what, some asked, qualifies him to invest money?

His response?

Two things. When he advised on the restructuring of bankrupt WorldCom, he saw other fund managers playing the distressed debt. And investors who push for improved corporate governance can improve a company's share price. It is a pitch that won over some big public-sector pension funds.

Wasn't Calpers an early backer?

Yes, and it is still in the US Breeden fund, despite its losing 0.9 per cent since inception in June 2006. However, it just pulled the plug on a European investment fund after heavy losses. New York's civil service pension fund fired Breeden last year; Maryland quit earlier this year.

Any Schadenfreude anywhere?

Prisoner 18330-424 might be smiling. "Breeden and his fascists", Conrad Black once wrote of the corporate governance brigade, "[they] are a menace to capitalism as any sane and civilised person would define it".