THE GETTY family, which has a fortune estimated at over dollars 4bn ( pounds 2.7bn), has joined forces with Lord Rothschild and Hambros Bank in a venture to buy controlling stakes in selected British companies.
Getty Investment Holdings has earmarked up to pounds 60m for its first acquisition. If this is successful, the venture could commit substantially larger funds to investing in the UK.
Getty Investment Holdings is 75 per cent owned by the Getty family trusts, with the remaining 25 per cent owned by Hambros and RIT, the investment trust run by Lord Rothschild. The group, a Delaware corporation run out of Jersey, is chaired by Christopher Sporborg, deputy chairman of Hambros.
The structure shows some similarities to Hoylake, the vehicle set up by Lord Rothschild, Sir James Goldsmith and Kerry Packer, which was advised by Hambros four years ago in its pounds 13.9bn bid for BAT Industries, the largest takeover bid seen in the UK.
The operation will be run by Mark Getty - grandson of the oil baron Paul Getty and son of the British-based, cricket-loving billionaire J Paul Getty II - along with Jonathan Klein, who recently stepped down as director of corporate finance at Hambros but remains as a consultant at the bank, advising the group's South African clients.
Mr Getty, who was born in Rome and educated in the UK, also worked at Hambros for two years, after a time at the US firm Kidder Peabody. For the last three years, however, he has been managing investments for the family.
The two have set up a corporate finance boutique, named Blueprint Associates after Mr Klein's favourite restaurant, Sir Terence Conran's Blueprint Cafe near Tower Bridge.
The Getty family sold its 40 per cent interest in Getty Oil in February 1984, when Texaco paid dollars 11bn for the business.
The fortune was then tied up for nearly five years while the various members of the family indulged in litigation against each other.
Most of the fortune is invested in marketable securities, but there are some direct investments. Only recently has the family agreed to allow an operation to be set up with a cohesive investment strategy.
Mr Getty told the Independent on Sunday that Getty Investment Holdings would be looking to take controlling stakes in British companies. It is currently identifying the sectors in which it will invest, but has ruled out anything involving high technology or property - one Getty trust burned its fingers after buying an 11.3 per cent stake in Mountleigh in 1990.
The initial investment would involve between pounds 15m and pounds 20m of equity investment and as much as pounds 40m of borrowings on top of that.
Mr Getty said it would prefer to buy a private group in the first instance but would not rule out making an offer for a public company.
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