Aldersley mulls sale as Ascalon eyes boutique

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After more than 12 months of refusal, Explorer Group's major shareholder John Aldersley is considering selling off part of his shares.
orer Group major shareholder John Aldersley is considering selling part of his interest in the company to Ascalon Capital Managers.

Ascalon, which is part-owned by St George Bank, owns a 40 per cent stake in Explorer after purchasing the interest from First Capital Group two weeks ago. Aldersley holds the remaining 60 per cent of Explorer.

"I'd be quite happy to eventually sell to Ascalon if they wish to buy them, I've told them that," Aldersley told InvestorDaily.

"I'm very happy to see them as a minority shareholder - and particularly a significant holder at that. We've immediately seen a positive response to ending the saga with First Capital."

However, while Aldersley is open to the idea of selling to Ascalon, he said the time was not yet right.

"I've given an undertaking to my staff that I won't make any cultural changes in the short term, which means I don't really want to sell control to Ascalon at the moment, but obviously they're the logical party to sell to when I decide to sell," he said.

He said if he was to sell, the share ownership would be flexible.

"They would like to get to a 50/50 situation. I'd like to keep the status quo at the moment, though [Ascalon chief executive] Nick Basile will be joining the board of Explorer," he said.

Existing board members were also likely to step aside for fresh blood, with Paul Bray already resigning and Tony Tighe expected to also quit as a director, he said.

He said Explorer looked set to bring in as a director an experienced person from a business the group was currently looking to acquire.

Aldersley's decision to at least consider parting with his stake in Explorer could bring to an end the bitter feud between him and the listed First Capital.

The two groups have been involved in a bitter disagreement for the past 12 months regarding Aldersley's shares.   Interest in the Explorer shares has started the ball rolling for Ascalon, with the group taking a 30 per cent stake in boutique fund manager H3 Global Advisors.

"It is our first investment in an absolute return funds manager and will enable Ascalon to participate in the growing institutional and retail demand for quality alpha generators like H3," Basile said.

H3 Global Advisors was established in 1996 by Andrew and Matthew Kaleel.   Former Queensland Investment Corporation fixed income manager Robert Bianchi also works at the boutique firm, which uses active quantitative strategies in managing its funds.

"The addition of Nick to our board will further strengthen H3's expertise and brings a complementary skills set in corporate governance," Andrew Kaleel said.

To date, Ascalon has invested in six boutique investment managers. In September, Ascalon took a 40 per cent stake in Explorer Group.

Explorer Group develops technology and software to manage separately managed accounts (SMA).

"The company uses innovative technologies which our boutique fund managers can leverage from. We also believe SMAs is an area that will grow faster than managed funds," Basile said.

Ascalon is co-owned by St George Bank and Kaplan Equity. Both hold 50 per cent of the shares in Ascalon. The firm provides commercial support to build boutique fund management businesses.


Aldersley mulls sale as Ascalon eyes boutique
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