#1- Head to Head: John Armitage and Brent Hoberman discuss where quoted investing meets venture.
In this fascinating interview, we learn what Armitage and Hoberman look for in an investment, how they judge management, how they view disruption from their different perspectives and why, in spite of their incredible success, they are both workaholics.
Two investors who went to the same school, then to Oxbridge, and have been awarded the CBE (*). They are both titans in their fields but through very different routes. One has run his hedge fund firm for 27 years, has an astonishingly good track record, yet is so under the radar that few have heard of him. The other has started multiple companies, is a business celebrity and is recognised as one of the most successful people in UK.
( * Commander of the British Empire, one of the most prestigious of the UK’s antiquated and complicated awards system).
Egerton owns Alphabet, Microsoft and Canadian Pacific. First Minute Capital is invested in Wayve , Klang Games and Nabla
This was a wide-ranging discussion and we cannot do it justice here – you really should listen to the podcast, but we have summarised a few of the soundbites below.
John Armitage said “I enjoyed the whole thing” while Brent Hoberman said of John:
“I definitively learnt during the session so it was time well spent for me”.
Brent looks to invest in talent magnets – that his 25 year old former self would want to work for. He looks for obsessive entrepreneurs, almost unhinged with a real passion, one which is infectious, not off-putting.
John looks for executives with focus, integrity and an ability to admit mistakes. He likes to invest in companies with a common culture – whoever you speak to in the organisation, the quality of the answer is consistent and speaks to a common objective. He cites Ryanair as a good example.
Armitage is incredibly humble for a hedge fund titan with $28bn AUM:
“I like working. I never feel successful. I measure success by the recent past.”
Armitage attributes his success to a decent dose of insecurity and being a workaholic. His ingredients for success:
Finding something you like
Feeling you have more to learn
And always worrying
Brent Hoberman who similarly has an astonishing workload and a relentless appetite for new challenges :
“And a word of warning for millennials with a feeling of entitlement. If work-life balance is a primary goal, you won’t be successful”
[because you need hard work and dedication]
ON VENTURE CAPITAL
John Armitage feels he should have participated more, much of the technological change is from early stage ventures and the more insight the better, but he has open-ended funds, largely with weekly liquidity.
We are in a period of unprecedented change, driven by technology. You can make incredible gains in venture capital, but this has been a peculiar point in time.
Brent Hoberman feels that his First Minute Capital Fund has not taken enough risk, because they have had only 3 failures out of over 50 investments. It’s characteristic that rather than congratulating himself on that success, he should be asking if they haven’t stretched themselves enough.
This was a fascinating discussion with a huge amount of wisdom. I don’t think anyone could come away from this, no matter what their level of experience, without learning something. I know I learned a lot.
John Armitage CBE is the co-founder and CIO of Egerton Capital, an asset management company with $27.8bn AUM at June 30, 2021. John’s track record in the 27 years since inception is simply stellar – the hedge fund has beaten the S&P hands down and it must be one of the longest running (and one of the best) major hedge funds in the world.
Armitage is in his early 60s, and founded Egerton with William Bollinger, formerly of Tiger in 1994, having previously worked for Morgan Grenfell Asset Management, since leaving university. He studied Modern History at Pembroke College Cambridge. A list of the 13-F US holdings at the time of recording the interview below suggests that 30-40% of the fund might be younger companies formerly backed by venture capital.
John Armitage’s hedge fund track record is outstanding, yet he is hardly known outside a small circle of insiders.
In his excellent book, Excess Returns, Fredrik Vanhaverbeke lists the estimated returns of the world’s best investors. Here are some of the longest ones, many of them doing things beyond vanilla equities. Egerton’s returns in a long only like for like comparison would certainly be one of the greats.
John Armitage recommends Security Analysis, the classic work by Graham and Dodd.
Brent Hoberman CBE shot to fame when he brought lastminute.com to the market with co-founder Martha Lane Fox in March, 2000, at the very height of the dot.com boom. It was sold to Sabre Holdings in 2005 and Hoberman left in 2006. He went on to co-found ProFounders Capital, Founders Factory, First Minute Capital and a whole slew of other businesses and not for profits:
BRENT’S CURRENT INTERESTS
Founders Factory – studio and accelerator backed by M&S, Holtzbrinck, Guardian Media Group, Aviva, L’Oréal, CSC, easyJet, J&J and Reckitt Benckiser.
Founders Forum – Europe’s pre-eminent community of founders, corporates and tech leaders.
firstminute capital – $250m seed fund backed by 100 unicorn founders.
Founders Intelligence – entrepreneur powered consulting.
Founders Keepers – technology executive search firm.
Founders of the Future – a network that identifies and supports aspiring entrepreneurs.
Founders Pledge – community for entrepreneurs committed to finding and funding solutions to global challenges.
accelerateHER – a network taking action to change the underrepresentation of women in technology.
Framework – a new type of business school for a changing world.
Karakuri.com – provider of robotics, AI and automation systems for the restaurant and food services industry.
01 Founders – free-to-access on-campus coding schools with a job guarantee.
Brent Hoberman recommends The New New Thing by Michael Lewis about billionaire Jim Clark who founded Netscape
AN UNUSUAL CONNECTION BETWEEN THESE GUESTS
Brent’s grandmother, South African sculptor, Stella Shawzin, was one of John’s first clients. Both men remember her fondly in the discussion. We don’t know what made Stella invest in John’s fund, perhaps she was a great judge of investors or simply of people. But we do know that she was a talented artist. Her work was on sale at Bonhams Auctions on September 1, including the work in the photo.
HOW STEVE KNOWS THE GUESTS
Steve has known Brent since the days of lastminute.com, when he was one of the few analysts who were positive on the stock. They have stayed in occasional touch and Brent kindly reviewed Steve’s book. Steve has known John Armitage for several years, is an investor in his fund and Egerton Capital is a Behind the Balance Sheet client.