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When stars fall to earth

NEIL Woodford might be the only fund manager in Britain, perhaps ever, who can lay claim to being a household name.

Even that’s a stretch, but he’s newsworthy enough for his present woes to feature high up on this morning’s Today programme, which doesn’t do bits on the fund management industry often.

He’s in trouble and it is hard to see how this story ends well, or indeed what the PR strategy would be.

But it is tempting to think he would be attracting less attention had he not made such efforts to get in the press when it suited him, pumping up the notion that he was a superstar, the guy Who Just Knew.

Even as recently as March he was insisting a turn-around was near and seemed to snipe at the media, as if we were the problem.

A telling measure is how hacks feel towards him. If there’s a sense of “he’s not a bad guy, we wish him well”.

Here’s what a Very Senior financial hack says on the matter: “Watching Woodford bleat about the press is just hilarious. He had nothing to do with us the whole time he was at Invesco Perpetual and then suddenly decided he needed us when he set up on his own. Having made zero attempt to cultivate the press during his glory years it is a bit rich of him to whinge now the obits for his career are being written.”

Truthfully, I can’t see that he has whinged that much, rather just tried to fight his corner. And he did speak to me a few times at Invesco Perpetual. In fact, he even bought me lunch after I’d written something unflattering, so perhaps he’s not-a-bad-bloke in a tight spot.

That isn’t the perception. Rather, it is that star fund managers always fall to earth.


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