Enchanting spice on heritage brands: New confidence launched by two of Britain’s most innovative entrepreneurs aims to boost famous British names
Sir Peter Wood is putting £25m of his personal fortune into the Castlenau investment trust
Two of Britain’s most innovative and patriotic entrepreneurs combine financial and intellectual resources to form an investment fund to take some of the country’s best-known brands to the next level.
Sir Peter Wood, the mastermind behind Direct Line, insurer Esure and a major investor in publishing house Future, is partnering with Gary Channon of Phoenix Asset Management to launch the Castelnau investment trust, which will be listed today on the London Stock Exchange. The fund will be backed by Phoenix investors and Wood is putting £25million of his personal fortune into it.
He is committed to an additional £75million and more if the right new opportunities emerge at potentially valuable UK companies.
Channon, who manages his money from Barnes, West London, is known for his love of the UK’s big hobby brands.
He is the largest investor in the famous stamp auction and collecting company Stanley Gibbons and recently bought the world’s most valuable stamp, the 1856 One-Cent Magenta, worth more than a third of Gibbons’ market capitalization for £6 million.
His plan to syndicate the stamp, in the manner of a racehorse, is seen as a means of transforming the rarefied world of philately that urgently needs to be modernized.
Yesterday Channon reenacted the events in New York where Stanley Gibbons was forced into liquidation over a lease dispute with LVMH-controlled fashion brand Stella McCartney.
All aboard: Sir Rod Stewart’s Hornby trainset. Initial investments in the fund start with hobby favorite Hornby, best known for high-end railcars but also home to Airfix models
He argues that it is time for Stanley Gibbons to tap into the growing interest of young people in India and China in stamps that celebrate the heritage and culture of two of the world’s fastest growing economies.
Using technology from the digital group Rawnet, one of the companies injected into the Castelnau fund, Gibbons has embarked on a major project to put more than a century of his famous catalogs online.
The valuation of the shares of the companies being transferred to Castelnau is expected to be a modest £250 million.
But there’s a confidence that with the right creative direction, it could be valued at £1 billion or more in three to five years.
Initial investments begin with British hobby favorite Hornby, best known for its high-quality electric multiple units, but also home to Airfix models, which made a huge comeback during the pandemic as the craft industry flourished.
Record breaker: The one cent magenta stamp bought by Stanley Gibons for £6 million
Channon believes Hornby could appeal to the same hobbyists who made Games Workshop a trade show phenomenon.
It will sit next to Gibbons, another eclectic favourite. In the next phase, the Castelnau portfolio will include shares in Cambium Group, which has become the UK’s largest wedding gift company.
Its victory over British rivals such as John Lewis is due to a smart platform that goes beyond selling porcelain and vacuum cleaners.
On the less joyous end of his life, Castelnau will also have a stake in leading funeral home company Dignity, where Channon is chief executive – although his role as investment manager of the new trust will undoubtedly lead to conflict of interest claims in some circles.
Channon will count on Wood’s expertise in insurance and comparison site marketing to bring spice to an industry steeped in tradition. Wood’s ability to break through, with Direct Line and Esure in the UK and Plymouth Rock in the US, should enable Dignity to provide funeral coverage and additions that alleviate some of the pain of bereavement.
The engine of the new trust will be two private companies. Rawnet offers digital know-how, while the data analytics comes from Ocula Technologies, founded by technology specialist Gerry Buggy, as companies embrace social media to sell their wares.
Channon is seeking acquisitions and claims to have the disruptive technology to advance well-known but undervalued brands.
The Castelnau project looks risky. Previous attempts to turn Gibbons and Hornby around have failed. But with Wood and Channon in the Fat Controller’s cab, investors won’t be diving into the unknown.