LONDON Jan 30 Nicola Horlick, one of the most high-profile women in Britain's financial industry, is launching a business aimed at making it easier for wealthy individuals to make private equity investments.
Rockpool Investments, which Horlick is launching with two former 3i Group executives, will try to capitalise on recent regulatory changes in Britain designed to encourage greater investment in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Horlick first made headlines in 1997 for successfully confronting Deutsche Bank over her suspension as Managing Director of its UK unit Morgan Grenfell Asset Management amid allegations she was planning to defect to a rival firm with her team.
She flew to Frankfurt along with 40 journalists to watch as she demanded her bosses reinstate her.
Her recent record has been more mixed.
Horlick faced intense criticism after Bramdean Asset Management, a London-based investment house which she founded and still runs as chief executive, lost $20 million of investors' money to Bernard Madoff's ponzi scheme in 2008.
A battle followed with property magnate Vincent Tchenguiz, who had invested about 40 million pounds in Bramdean at its float and successfully pushed to replace the board after the losses came to light.
Bramdean sold the bulk of its funds business to Aberdeen Asset Management in 2009.
Rockpool will seek to exploit the growing demand for individual investments in SMEs as bank financing becomes harder to come by.
Under changes to the UK's Enterprise Investment Scheme, individuals can now reclaim more of the cost of investments in SMEs against income tax, while the number of eligible companies -- and the amount they can raise in any one year -- has increased.
Rockpool will seek to sign up rich private investors to its network happy to invest a minimum of 25,000 pounds per deal. The business will focus on deals requiring between 2 and 10 million pounds of equity.
Horlick will take on the role of Chairman at Rockpool, with Gary Robins, formerly chief executive of Hotbed and Matt Taylor, a former partner at Foresight Group, jointly managing the business.
Last year Horlick told Reuters she was planning to set up a a "fund-supermarket type-platform."
At the time she also said she was setting up a chain of private member clubs in London's suburbs, to be named after her late daughter, Georgina, as well as pursuing a $150 million farmland deal in Brazil's Bahia region for two UK institutions.