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16. Tim Levett, executive chairman, NVM Private Equity (+20)
After an active 2009, NVM last year embarked on a period of ‘consolidation’. Four new companies were added to the portfolio, plus one follow-on investment, in deals totalling £28 million. Former naval officer and Shell UK executive Levett says the firm’s £9 million investment into the MBO of software provider Kerridge Commercial Systems was a ‘milestone’, while NVM also offloaded crane hire company WeldEx, a long-time holding, to Dunedin reaping £90 million.
17. Jamie Constable, CEO, RCapital (+18)
The recession may be over, but turnaround investor RCapital is just beginning to get busy. 2010 was a quiet year for the distressed market until September, says Constable, with poor deal flow impeding any fresh activity. Then the firm, which owns roadside chain Little Chef, squeezed in three deals before the year was out, including the rescue of steel fabricator S Robinson & Sons. Constable, a Ferrari lover with a head for numbers, anticipates a busier 2011.
18. George Coelho, MD and head of venture capital, Good Energies (-4)
Over-exposure in the solar energy sector led to a restructuring at Good Energies last year, which Coelho says has re-energised the firm and will give it a broader spread of expertise across the cleantech industry. In addition, it has received another e250 million to invest from its sole backer, the Brenninkmeijer family. In a past life at Balderton Capital, which he co-founded, Coelho backed big names such as Betfair and Lovefilm.
19. Edward Mott, chief executive, Oxford Capital Partners (+33)
Other investors have a variety of excuses for low levels of investment activity last year, but Mott doesn’t need one. Oxford Capital Partners backed 18 new companies, including mobile social network Flirtomatic and ‘virtual product placement’ business MirriAd. ‘Capital plus empathy plus experience is a winning formula in VC firms,’ says Mott. ‘Looking ahead, it’s going to be about helping great British companies achieve excellence in sales and marketing, and service international markets.’
20. David Holbrook, general partner, MTI (+32)
As well as winning a slew of awards, including Equity Gap Fund of the Year at Business XL’s Investor AllStars, MTI last year pulled off its most successful exit ever, the sale of bone graft specialist ApaTech for US$330 million. During the year Holbrook led the firm to investments in Exosect, a developer of environmentally friendly pest control products, and Eykona Technologies, an Oxford University spin-out specialising in 3D imaging, committing £1 million and £450,000 respectively.
21. David Whileman, partner, 3i (+23)
Down-to-earth Whileman heads up the UK growth capital division at 3i, which purchases minority stakes in mid-sized businesses. He describes 2010 as a successful year for 3i, which saw the sale of the car park group NSL for £120 million in September. Other notable deals included supporting environmental consultancy SLR in the company’s acquisition of Australian firm Heggies.
22. Charles Irving, co-founder, Pond Venture Partners (+)
With two-thirds of its portfolio based in the UK, Pond has a significant British heart. The venture capital firm has offices in London, California and Israel, and sees itself as a Silicon Valley-style investor in internationally ambitious companies. In a year when many VCs announced no exits, Pond made three, all in the final quarter of 2010, including Silicon Valley-based smart home technology developer 4Home.
23. Rod Richards, managing partner, Graphite Capital (+)
Aside from launching a new property company, London Square, which focuses exclusively on developing new-builds within the M25, other significant deals for Graphite include the buy-out of car parts company U-Pol for £130 million and the acquisition for £45 million of supply teacher provider Teaching Personnel. As for exits, ‘There are three or four companies we will sell, but at a price that will have to be pretty full,’ says Richards.
24. Bob Morton, serial investor and chairman of Tenon Group (+26)
Private companies were the investment target for Bob Morton in the past year. ‘I have not bought any more public companies,’ he remarks. ‘I am very much investing into private equity because there is not a lot of point being in the public market at this time’. Not one to shy away from expressing some pretty inconvenient views, Morton believes that the UK is at the start of a ‘five-year depression’ due to continuing credit woes, austerity measures and high unemployment.
25. Vin Murria, CEO, Advanced Computer Software (+)
The daughter of a bus driver, Vin Murria sold IT company Kewill Systems to private equity in a deal worth £500 million and now runs acquisitive Advanced Computer Software (ACS). She’s also a partner at VC firm Elderstreet Investments, which like ACS is chaired by Business XL columnist Michael Jackson. Never forgetting her roots, Murria waives her salary at ACS to fund the education of children in India.
26. Keith Harris, executive chairman, Seymour Pierce (+)
Ex-HSBC chief and sudoku enthusiast Harris took control of Seymour Pierce following a shake-up at AIM’s largest broker and nomad in early 2010. Best known for advising on the takeovers of football clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City, he sealed a deal of a different kind in December, when Seymour Pierce merged with US-based Gerova, putting him at the head of a substantial transatlantic equities and reinsurance business.
27. Eric Archambeau, general partner, Wellington Partners (-16)
At the end of last year, Archambeau headed to the Rockies on a skiing trip. It was his reward after a relatively busy year at Wellington Partners that saw the firm complete six new deals in the cleantech and digital media sectors. Among the deals it led were a financing of SEK 170 million (£16 million) to take GLO’s innovative LED technology into production, and a €14.5 million round for Germany-based Azzuro Semiconductors.
28. Philip Secrett, partner, Grant Thornton (+)
In what he describes as a year of recovery for capital markets, self-professed optimist Philip Secrett notes that the latter part of 2010 provided a bumper harvest for fundraisings on AIM. ‘December was a lot busier than everyone expected in terms of fundraisings, with secondaries raising almost £1.2 billion,’ he says. ‘The whole year was the fourth-best year for AIM in terms of total fundraisings at £6.9 billion.’ Grant Thornton, still the leading accountant on AIM, also worked with the London Stock Exchange last year to lobby the government on extending VCT relief.
29. Hilary Devey, chair and CEO, Pall-Ex Group (+)
As a woman who’s made it in a macho industry where she had to fight to get people to take her seriously, Lancashire-born Hilary Devey is an inspiration for women in business. Now she’s overseeing the European expansion of Pall-Ex Group, which she founded in 1996 and has revolutionised the UK’s pallet distribution industry through a few changes that seem simple now but no-one had tried before. The company entered the Iberian peninsula last year and is to launch in Poland, Benelux, Germany and France over the next five. Devey overcame a stroke in 2008 to continue campaigning for charities and championing entrepreneurs.
30. Paul Birch, angel investor (+)
Birch, who founded Bebo with brother Michael and sister-in-law Xochi, is always on the lookout for promising new companies. In 2010, he and Michael invested £5 million in Onalytica, which uses online debate about brands to predict future trends. But this year he wants to move out of the back seat and launch his own start-up. He hasn’t worked out the details yet but it will be all about ‘gamification – the application of gaming mechanics to non-gaming applications’.
31. Mark Wignall, chief executive, Matrix Asset Management (-28)
Activity started to pick up for Matrix from the summer onwards, and in the last quarter of 2010 the firm completed two MBOs in pharmaceutical recruiter RDL and business-to-business publisher Faversham House. In expectation of more buy-outs in 2011, Matrix recently launched a £20 million fundraising on a current asset base of £120 million. ‘Smaller company mergers and acquisitions are happening again,’ says Wignall, who anticipates a couple of exits this year as portfolio companies mature.
32. Tim Smit, co-founder and chief executive, The Eden Project (-6)
‘A lot of money is very often not what you need to create great things,’ says Tim Smit, whose views on business are refreshing and occasionally mind-boggling. For instance, he names as his highlight of 2010 the flooding in south Cornwall that destroyed much of the Eden Project site. ‘Adversity is what hones you and makes you think what to drive for,’ he explains. A Herculean effort saw the site back up and running again in a week.
33. Rory Earley, CEO, Capital for Enterprise (+40)
While many government bodies have suffered in the wake of the Spending Review, Capital for Enterprise, the organisation set up to deliver business support initiatives, benefited from a flat settlement involving £200 million for new enterprise capital funds. ‘It’s a real vote of confidence for what we’ve been doing given the very difficult spending conditions being faced by the government,’ says chief executive Rory Earley.
34. Kristian Segerstråle, co-founder, Playfish (+)
The exit of social gaming site Playfish for up to $400 million just two years after its launch catapulted Segerstråle into the limelight. The 33-year-old, who believes European entrepreneurs don’t ‘dream big enough’, now drives a Tesla Roadster into work every day and continues to lead the business from inside US acquirer Electronic Arts. His earn-out concludes at the end of this year, after which all eyes will be focused on his next move.
35. Peter Baines, general partner, Advent Venture Partners (-31)
Advent launched its first life sciences fund last year with £75 million to invest, but Baines explains this isn’t really a new departure, as the firm has always backed the sector. Its other focus is on technology, which ‘we define pretty broadly, from telecoms at one end to digital media at the other’. The year saw three exits, including the sale of respiratory drug company Respivert to pharma giant Johnson & Johnson.
36. Jos White, founding partner, Notion Capital (+)
Potential investees be warned: Jos White isn’t one to watch from the sidelines. That shouldn’t be surprising in someone who co-founded three companies that became market leaders: RBR Networks, Star Internet and MessageLabs. White’s venture fund Notion Capital, in which brother Ben is also a partner, was launched in mid-2009 and targets early-stage internet services companies. It made five investments last year including eSellerPro and Bright Pearl. ‘I want to help companies be big,’ declares the marathon runner.
37. Uli Fricke, chair, European Venture Capital Association (+)
A passionate champion of entrepreneurs across the continent against misguided EU legislation, Germany-based Fricke has given the EVCA fresh relevance on both sides of the Channel, becoming a familiar face in London as well as Frankfurt. She is co-founder of Triangle Venture Capital Group, where she is spearheading a e100 million fund set up to invest in space technology.
38. James Caan, serial entrepreneur (-29)
Beard-stroking business guru James Caan has left Dragons’ Den, and whether you believe that his reason for departure lies with ‘concentrating on business interests’ or his non-dom rift with Duncan Bannatyne, his calming presence will be missed as an antidote to the cantankerous Bannatyne and the aloof Peter Jones. Caan’s empire, which centres on mid-market private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw, continues to expand, though he foresees sluggish growth for the UK this year.
39. Oliver Woolley, partner, Envestors (+47)
After describing 2009 as ‘stonking’, Woolley isn’t as colourful about 2010 but remains equally enthused when it comes to Envestors. ‘It has been very exciting,’ he says. In October, the business angel network was acquired by AIM-listed Braveheart Investment Group, a deal that Woolley remarks has allowed it to greatly broaden its services. The father of two boys, aged 10 and 12, he says the fourth quarter of last year was the business’s best ever and this year will see continued global expansion.
40. Mark Boggett, managing director, Seraphim Capital (+46)
Likeable Boggett is on the board of YFM (see also David Hall, no. 6) in addition to his role at early-stage fund Seraphim Capital. ‘It has been a difficult 12 months for everyone in the industry,’ he says, referencing a portfolio company that went into administration in December. Seraphim has been taking a hands-on approach to its portfolio companies, changing the chairman at seven out of ten of its investments during 2010.
41. Marcus Stuttard, head of AIM (=41)
‘Another very robust year with AIM,’ says Marcus Stuttard, who has steered the junior market since April 2009. He adds that the market is demonstrating ‘maturity’ and exuding ‘increased confidence’.
42. Chilton Taylor, head of capital markets, Baker Tilly (+)
His silky-smooth demeanour and Donald Trump-style haircut are well known on the AIM circuit, but it’s Taylor’s intimate knowledge of growth company finance that makes him a highly prized adviser.
43. Sean Seton-Rogers, general partner, PROfounders (+)
One of the best-connected people in venture capital, Seton-Rogers counts Lastminute.com founder Brent Hoberman, Bebo co-founder Michael Birch and George Coelho (see no. 18) among his friends.
44. Simon Melling, CEO, Cenkos (+)
Last year, Cenkos raised £184 million for its clients – more than any other AIM broker. ‘There was demand among [institutional investors] for the right product, but we’ve had to work a lot harder to find it,’ says Melling.
45. Peter Jones, investor and serial entrepreneur (-11)
Though he grabbed fewer headlines than fellow Dragon James Caan last year, the telecoms entrepreneur did launch his own businesswear range, as well as opening a Sheffield outlet of his National Enterprise Academy.
46. Andy Brough, fund manager, Schroders (-44)
Head of Schroders’ European small- and mid-cap team, Brough relaxes by managing the local 7-11 football side. He says, ‘We were briefly top of the league, but since my son has gone off we’ve struggled.’
47. Paul Haddock, head of capital markets, PLUS (+)
Last year saw a gradual pick-up in activity on PLUS-quoted, with 18 new admissions. Haddock insists that the market is ‘complementary to other options that are available’, and a useful fundraising option for SMEs.֨
48. Suranga Chandratillake, CEO, Blinkx (+)
Spun-out from technology darling Autonomy, Blinkx is quickly establishing itself as a major player, both in the UK and Silicon Valley. Sales have grown from £3.5 million in 2008 to £22.18 million last year.
49. Peter Cullum, executive chairman, Towergate (=49)
Insurance broking group Towergate has announced a cash injection of £200 million from private equity firm Advent International to ‘reignite’ its acquisition programme. It’s already bought over 170 firms since 1997.
50. Megan Smith, VP, Google (+)
As head of the team that manages Google’s early-stage partnerships and technology licensing, Megan Smith is at the heart of the search giant’s M&A activity. Since joining in 2003 she has led several acquisitions.
Casualties of 2010
Jonathan Kestenbaum, former CEO of NESTA (-39)
From start-up champion to the Rothschild family's fund manager, Kestenbaum’s career just keeps us guessing
Jonathan Davis, financial adviser (-48)
We’ll restore the doomsayer to our rankings next year if his cataclysmic prophecies are realised
Fred Destin, partner, Atlas Venture (-37)
Still a big name in venture capital, but Destin has been lost to the US with the closure of Atlas’s London office
Kate Bleasdale, executive vice-chair, Healthcare Locums (-17)
HCL is in intensive care following the suspension of both trading in its shares and Bleasdale herself
Shilpa Shetty, private investor (-50)
The Bollywood beauty’s entrepreneurial ventures have been slow burners
Business XL’s Power Top 50 is a completely independent ranking of investors, serial entrepreneurs and advisers to public and private growing businesses, compiled using the expertise of knowledgeable industry insiders and statistical analysis into transaction activity.
Some of the statistics used in the compiling of The Power Top 50 originate from the following sources:
The AIM Guide 2010/11
The essential information on AIM’s 1,360 companies
AIM in Review 2010
The most comprehensive investigation ever undertaken into London’s junior market
*The AIM Guide and AIM research reports are available to purchase from Vitesse Media in PDF format. You can order them by calling 020 7250 7056 or by email.
Contributors to The Power Top 50: Nick Britton, Todd Cardy, Ellie Duncan, Ben Lobel and Chris McIntyre.