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Founder Mark Clare parts company with Woodward Partners

Monday 29th April 2013

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A founding partner of boutique Wellington investment bank Woodward Partners, Mark Clare, is leaving the firm to set up his own shop, insisting the departure is "amicable" after resigning from the board of the firm's fledgling institutional broking business in February.

Clare advised his move in an email Sunday night, saying establishing the broking business had been "an adventure", but "in the last few weeks we have reached a point with the institutional share broking business where it has become obvious that it needed a more focused ownership structure."

Woodward established the broking operation last year with the addition of long-time investment bankers Neville Todd and Rob Borgers, in anticipation of increased demand for independent institutional broking services in the wake of partial privatisations and a recovering New Zealand share market.

"Rob Borgers is acquiring the institutional broking business, and Nick Lewis and Neville Todd (are) moving their equity holdings fully from the investment banking business to the broking business," said Clare. The email caught Woodward off-guard, but Clare insisted it was his error not to have run its contents past the Woodward principals before sending it.

"It's amicable," he told BusinessDesk.

Clare will relinquish the Woodward Partners brand to the Todd/Borgers partnership, with co-founder and head analyst Nick Lewis remaining at Woodward, while Clare and another early investor, Mark Donnell, will create a new investment banking advisory firm, Clare Capital.

In an emailed statement to BusinessDesk, Todd confirmed Clare's "personal decision to leave Woodward Partners and pursue his independent investment banking interests. We respect his decision and wish him well for the future."

"Woodward Partners will continue to operate as a corporate advisor and institutional stock broking firm servicing clients in New Zealand, Australia and internationally," Todd said.

Clare founded Woodward Partners with Lewis in late-2009, and Donnell joined in early 2010.

Clare cited the firm's successes as including the sale of Bank of New Zealand's commercial insurance business to Aon, the acquisition of 50 percent of Express Couriers for NZ Post from DHL, the sale of Radian Technology to Tru-Test, and advising the government on the value of petroleum royalties.

The firm also pulled off one of the few new NZX listings since the 2008 global financial crisis, with the float of Energy Mad in October 2011. The energy efficient light-bulb maker and marketer raised $5 million at $1 a share after deadlines were extended, but has struggled since to meet prospectus forecasts.

In February, the company forecast a $1.1 million loss for the current financial year, compared with prospectus forecast profit of $4 million.

Clare said his new business would continue to manage mandates on a number of active clients as Woodward Partners and Donnell continue to work in the Woodward offices, an arrangement Clare said "doesn't work from my end."

Working from temporary space, Clare said he had "a vision for a high-quality corporate finance advisory firm" and was open for business.

"The key thing I want to make clear is, outside of the client work I am continuing to manage in the interim as Woodward Partners, I have no involvement (either operational or ownership) with the institutional share broking business trading as Woodward Partners."

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