Affluent fund managers have poured hundreds of thousands of pounds into the campaigns of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt as the investment industry keeps a close eye on the contest to become Britain’s next prime minister — and pick up clues on the future of Brexit and business.
The donations have come mostly from hedge fund managers, though a handful of executives from traditional investment groups have also given financial support.
A total of 160,000 Conservative Party members will receive ballots this week. Their vote will decide who will be party leader — and almost certainly the next PM — with the result due on July 23.
Mr Johnson, the frontrunner, has scooped up the lion’s share of donations from investment executives, despite once reportedly responding to a question about companies’ concerns over Brexit with the words “fuck business”. Several of his donors support the UK leaving the EU.
David Lilley, a partner at metals hedge fund RK Capital, gave £15,000 to Mr Johnson, as detailed in the MP’s register of financial interests. He previously put £100,000 into the Leave campaign.
Other hedge fund supporters of Mr Johnson include Jon Wood, founder of SRM Global and a long-term Tory backer, who donated £75,000 worth of funding, office and staffing costs; and Johan Christofferson, founder of Christofferson, Robb and Co, who donated £36,000.
Mr Johnson also attracted funding from Jamie Reuben, the son of billionaire property mogul David Reuben and a managing partner at Melbury Capital, who donated £50,000; and Alex Wilmot-Sitwell, a partner at the boutique investment bank Perella Weinberg, who donated £5,000.
Charles Montanaro, who runs Montanaro Investment Managers, donated £8,000. “I was happy to make the contribution in my personal capacity to Boris Johnson’s campaign because, after careful consideration, I am convinced that he is the best person to negotiate and deliver Brexit,” he said.
“He has a compelling and optimistic vision for the UK that I share. I believe that our country is bursting with talent and creativity that has the potential to thrive alongside Europe rather than solely within in it.”
Mr Hunt has been less successful attracting donations from investment executives but has still benefited from his reputation of being an entrepreneur before entering politics.
Among his backers are Moulsford Capital, run by private equity investor Peter Wilson, which provided office space worth £8,945, and Andrew Law, hedge fund manager at Caxton Associates and longtime Tory donor, who pledged £10,000. He had previously given £200,000 to the Remain campaign.
Mr Wilson has known Mr Hunt for 30 years and they studied at Oxford university together. He told the Financial Times that he admired Mr Hunt’s “values, work ethic, professionalism, and most importantly believed that in an increasingly competitive global economy the UK needed leadership with an entrepreneurial background and an understanding of the important role business plays in creating jobs and wealth for our society”.
David Forbes-Nixon, chairman and chief executive of BNY Mellon boutique Alcentra, is another personal friend of Mr Hunt. He donated £10,000.
Mohamed Amersi, a specialist in emerging markets investment, donated £10,000 each to Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt, as well as similar amounts to earlier contenders Rory Stewart and Michael Gove.
“I decided that whoever came to my door with a smile and a compelling story to tell I would give my support to,” said Mr Amersi, who initially backed Brexit but has softened his views.
“I want whoever wins to unite the country, first and foremost,” he added. “In terms of offering stability and ideas, Jeremy has the edge. In terms of charisma, it’s probably Boris.”