First London, the investment bank that attracted attention last summer because of its links to a convicted insurance fraudster and its role in the short-lived takeover of League Two football team Notts County, is being wound up.
The move comes seven weeks after the bank suddenly lost two high profile non-executive directors – former Conservative environment minister and sitting MP for South Suffolk, Tim Yeo, and Nicholas Chance, Prince Michael of Kent's private secretary.
A spokesman for the bank confirmed: "First London announced to its shareholders on 16 October 2009 that it has entered into an agreement to sell First London Asset Management. As part of the process of maximising shareholder value, First London is currently finalising the sale of the few small remaining assets. As intended, shareholders are being delivered value and, having no further business to accomplish, directors are gradually leaving the company."
When announcing that deal last year, the bank only mentioned a "special dividend" to shareholders, but the winding up brings to a close one of the more curious chapters in boutique investment banking history.
First London announced the sale of its asset management business to a little known firm called Swiss Commodity Holding for £172m in October, just after de-listing its own shares from the Plus Markets stock exchange.
It is not clear if any of the £172m was ever paid, but SCH itself has disappeared from view and no longer even has a website.
Last autumn, when it was suggested that SCH could float, the company's representatives were reported to have claimed that the group had assets of £1.2trn, significantly more than commodity giants such as BHP Billiton.
One of the key players in SCH was Russell King, who has had £1.9m of assets frozen by a Jersey court and was sentenced to prison in 1991 for insurance fraud. He also had long-standing links to the collapsed Jersey-based Belgravia Group – which First London once attempted to acquire – as well as playing a key role in the acquisition of Notts County, a deal on which First London advised.
At the football club, King helped negotiate the sensational signing of former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson, who was expecting to receive shares in SCH as part of his package. SCH's logo was even introduced to the Notts County badge, but Eriksson left the club once it became clear that the investment promised by the new owners was not going to arrive.
King was also photographed in North Korea on a business trip when he was representing SCH, whose director, former bankrupt Kevin Leech, is also understood to have been a major shareholder in First London.
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