Stafford resigns as Phaunos fund manager

The global investment and advisory firm is helping select a sales manager for assets that remain within the listed timber fund after shareholders voted to wind the company down in June.

Stafford Capital Partners resigned on Monday its position as manager of Phaunos Timber Fund, a London listed closed-end vehicle the firm had managed since June 2014.

Effective following a six-month notice period that will begin after a general meeting to be held in August, the resignation comes after Phaunos’ shareholders voted in June not to continue the company’s operations and its board announced plans to sell remaining assets.

“While disappointed that shareholders decided not to support [Phaunos’] continuation, we are very proud of the improved performance that has been achieved and are firmly of the view that the company is in a better position to realize shareholder value than it was when we commenced managing the Phaunos portfolio,” Stafford partner Stephen Addicott said in a statement.

Phaunos board and evaluation committee chairman Sir Henry Studholme told Agri Investor that Stafford had done an exceptional job managing Phaunos and that the fund’s improved performance may have played a role in the shareholders’ vote to stop the company’s operations.

“Sometimes, maybe, people make the decision to sell when things are looking good, rather than when things are looking not so good, so there may be some rationale,” he said.

Studholme added that Stafford’s decision to resign following the vote was natural given that the firm is not a specialist in the wind-down of funds. Stafford is continuing to assist Phaunos in selecting a sales agent for the fund’s remaining assets, Studholme said, but he declined to discuss specific properties or likely buyers.

In April, Addicott detailed to Agri Investor the steps that had been taken to dispose of non-yielding, higher-risk assets, which he described as predominately greenfield developments and less mainstream timber species.

Addicott said that such assets constituted 36 percent of Phaunos’ net asset value when Stafford began managing the vehicle and had been brought down to 13 percent of the portfolio by April. Sale of those assets was a key driver, according to Addicott, of the $18.3 million in net profits Phaunos reported last year, after having sustained a $10.5 million net loss in 2015.