ValueAct’s founder Ubben retires from firm, starts new venture

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FILE PHOTO: Jeffrey Ubben, Founder & CEO at ValueAct Capital, speaks on the Reuters Newsmaker event
FILE PHOTO: Jeffrey Ubben, Founder & CEO at ValueAct Capital, speaks on the Reuters Newsmaker event “The Future of Shareholder Activism” in Manhattan, New York, U.S., February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

June 24, 2020

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

BOSTON (Reuters) – Investor Jeffrey Ubben, who grew ValueAct Capital into one of the world’s most powerful activist hedge funds, is retiring from the firm and will start anew with an investment company that will focus on society and the environment.

Ubben has founded Inclusive Capital Partners along with Lynn Forester de Rothschild and will take along some ValueAct colleagues, including Eva Zlotnicka, head of stewardship at the firm, three people familiar with the move said.

The move completes Ubben’s roughly three-year long transition out of the day-to-day business at ValueAct and will give him a new platform for socially responsible investments at a time investors are calling for corporations to behave better.

“The final step in the journey is for the former CEO to leave the company, to fully empower his/her successor. We are taking that step today,” ValueAct’s chief executive officer Mason Morfit wrote to his investors in a letter seen by Reuters.

The ValueAct team which has worked on investments from Microsoft to Nintendo will stay together, Morfit wrote, adding “this team is going to win. Big.”

He said the firm’s fundamental values remain unchanged with a focus on “finding win-wins for our companies and our investors, always learning,” and “having fun.”

Ubben, who spent the last years becoming one of Wall Street’s biggest evangelists for investments with strong environmental, social and governance components, said his new firm will “partner with management and the boards of companies whose core businesses seek to achieve the reversal of corporate harm.”

“We will aim to make capitalism part of the solution, rather than the source of some of the world’s biggest problems,” Ubben wrote in the firm’s mission statement, seen by Reuters.

Affiliated Managers Group, which owns stakes in boutique asset managers and has owned a stake in ValueAct for more than a decade, said on Tuesday that it will become a minority equity partner in Inclusive Capital Partners, making it the first big name investor to publicly back Ubben’s new project.

AMG will continue to be invested with ValueAct as well, the company said in a statement.

The Financial Times first reported Ubben’s move.

Ubben founded ValueAct, which now manages over $14 billion, in 2000 and spent decades growing it into a powerhouse known for preferring to stay out of the limelight and working more collaboratively with companies in pushing for change.

He has not led an investment in ValueAct’s main fund since 2018 and has handed responsibility to Morfit, his hand-picked successor, by first making him chief investment officer in 2017 and then making him chief executive officer in 2019.

(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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