Gilbert continues AssetCo spree with purchase of ETF group Rize

Martin Gilbert, the City veteran, will accelerate his bid to create a new fund management empire this week when he taps shareholders for the funds to buy a company in the fast-growing exchange-traded funds (ETFs) sector.

Sky News has learnt that AssetCo, Mr Gilbert’s new corporate vehicle, plans to raise approximately £25m of new equity from investors.

The cash call, which could be announced as early as Wednesday morning, will be partly used to finance the acquisition of a majority stake in Rize, which bills itself as Europe’s first thematic issuer of ETFs, according to insiders.

People close to the situation cautioned that key details of the fundraising and acquisition had yet to be finalised on Tuesday.

The deal will be the third announced by AssetCo since Mr Gilbert and a number of former colleagues from Standard Life Aberdeen took control of the London-listed business.

In May, it bought Saracen Fund Managers, an Edinburgh-based boutique.

That was followed at the start of this month by the purchase of a minority stake in Parmenion, an asset management platform which until recently was owned by Mr Gilbert’s former employer.

AssetCo’s plan to raise new capital from investors will not surprise the City as the need to gather firepower for selective acquisitions was always intended to be part of the company’s armoury.

Its latest share sale will come amid a frenetic period of dealmaking for Mr Gilbert, who also chairs the digital banking and payments app Revolut.

Sky News revealed last month Revolut’s plans to raise close to $1bn from the sale of a stake to SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 – a move that was confirmed last week.

A smartphone displays a Revolut logo on top of banknotes

Image: Revolut, the digital banking and payments app, is among Mr Gilbert’s other business interests

Mr Gilbert also sits on a host of other corporate boards, including the asset manager River & Mercantile and Saranac, a wealth manager.

Prior to Mr Gilbert’s investment, AssetCo was best-known as the listed fire engine leasing group which successfully sued its former auditor, Grant Thornton, for more than £20m over its failure to expose a fraud at the company.

Mr Gilbert established Aberdeen Asset Management in 1983 and floated it on the London Stock Exchange eight years later.

A string of audacious takeover deals saw it enjoy explosive growth, while its substantial exposure to emerging markets, particularly in Asia, turned it into an industry powerhouse.

In 2002, Aberdeen was nearly brought down by an industry scandal over the mis-selling of so-called split capital investment trusts, which resulted in thousands of investors losing money.

Mr Gilbert was undeterred, however, and in 2017 he engineered the biggest deal-making coup of his career when he orchestrated Aberdeen’s £11bn all-share merger with Standard Life to create Europe’s second-largest asset manager.

Alongside Keith Skeoch, he became co-chief executive of Standard Aberdeen (SLA), but the loss of a key contract with Lloyds Banking Group and weak performance elsewhere in its business led to both men stepping down within three years of the deal.

An AssetCo spokesman declined to comment on Tuesday.