Gunn Agri Partners and Ben Craw launch Oxley Capital Partners

The corporate advisory firm aims to address a ‘structural funding gap’ in Australian agriculture by connecting agribusinesses with investors, Craw said.

Asset manager Gunn Agri Partners has co-founded a food and agribusiness corporate advisory firm with Ben Craw, the former lead partner in PwC’s food and agribusiness M&A division in Australia.

Craw will serve as managing partner of Oxley Capital Partners, which is headquartered in Sydney and an independent subsidiary of Gunn Agri Partners.

Speaking to Agri Investor, Craw said he had made the decision to leave PwC with a “heavy heart,” but that Oxley Capital Partners had been established to help address a “structural funding gap” that exists in Australian agriculture.

He cited government ambitions, supported by the National Farmers’ Federation, to reach A$100 billion ($68.3 billion; €61.8 billion) in agricultural output by 2030 and said private capital had a large role to play in achieving this.

Oxley Capital Partners will assist clients in gaining access to debt and equity capital, and will provide corporate advisory services in areas including capital raising, strategic reviews, corporate due diligence and restructuring. Craw said it would be “agnostic” about the sectors it worked in.

“Oxley Capital’s role is to join the dots between those businesses that are looking for alternative forms of capital more broadly with the investor market,” he said. “We’re very well-connected in the broader investment universe of food and ag, and that investor group is quite diverse once you start to move further downstream from the farmgate operation – as you start to move more away from institutional pensions into private equity-type and more short-term-horizon investors.”

Gunn Agri Partners had also been considering a way to provide extra services to the market and its clients, with ambitions to expand into corporate advisory before talks with Craw began earlier this year.

Gunn Agri Partners co-founder and managing partner Bradley Wheaton told Agri Investor: “We’ve identified the opportunity for more specialist skills to focus on the capital gap in agriculture and agribusinesses, as we’ve assisted a few clients on both the buy and sell side in an ad-hoc way over the years. It’s something as a business that we wanted to have a dedicated focus on, but in a separate business with absolute top-tier talent. It was the opportunity to work with Ben that really precipitated our move.

“We see the strategic value for Gunn Agri – we can bring a lot of opportunities to the investors we’ve had a long-term relationship with – and those opportunities will arise out of, we believe, providing advice.”

Wheaton and Craw would not be drawn on further additions to Oxley’s team other than to say the ambition was to “build out a larger team to serve a greater portion of the market, in time.”

The business’s name is taken from John Oxley, an early Australian explorer who made two expeditions into the interior of New South Wales and one along the Brisbane River in Queensland. It continues a Gunn Agri Partners tradition of naming subsidiary companies after Australian explorers.