* Interim findings of strategic review prompt changes
* Seeks CFO, to appoint new non-executive directors
* Serves notice on investment manager Electra Partners
By Simon Jessop and Anjuli Davies
LONDON, May 26 (Reuters) - Electra Private Equity on Thursday appointed activist investor Edward Bramson as interim chief executive and served notice on its investment manager Electra Partners, as part of an ongoing review.
Bramson, whose Sherborne Investors investment vehicle is the biggest shareholder in Electra, fought a long and bitter campaign to join Electra’s board as part of a plan to overhaul one of Britain’s oldest private equity firms.
He won that battle in late November by getting a seat on the board, which opened the way for a root-and-branch review of Electra’s operations.
Bramson has criticised Electra for a lack of openness and has said there is more value to be found in the company’s portfolio, which includes the restaurant chain TGI Fridays in Britain.
Bramson’s company Sherborne also criticised the relationship between Electra Partners, the fund manager which oversees its investments, and its main client Electra Private Equity, arguing that sound principles of corporate governance demanded that an investment trust’s board and its fund manager operate at arm’s length.
Electra has given Electra Partners 12 months’ notice of its intention to terminate their tie-up to give the board flexibility to any make potential changes resulting from the review, which is due to be completed by the autumn.
“The changes announced today are designed to strengthen the corporate governance of the company and provide the board with the necessary support to undertake its detailed review of strategy and structure,” Neil Johnson, chairman of Electra Private Equity, said.
“The decision to serve notice to Electra Partners is a pragmatic step that will allow the board to act on any specific recommendations of the review in a more timely way.”
Electra Partners said it was surprised and disappointed about the decision, citing its excellent returns over the long term.
“We are proud of our exceptional performance record,” Alex Fortescue, managing partner of Electra Partners, said. He said he expected the firm to continue to thrive with access to significant capital resources, given it had received numerous approaches from other potential investors.
Electra said Electra Partners would continue to provide the same administrative and investment services during the notice period, although there might be some constraints on the rate of new investments.
Electra also left the door open for a new contract to be signed.
As well as Bramson’s appointment as interim CEO, the firm said it would start looking for a chief financial officer. It has also asked ex-Aviva Investors chief investment officer David Lis and former Barclays Private Equity managing director Paul Goodson to join the board as non-executive directors. (Reporting by Simon Jessop. Editing by Jane Merriman)