The rise and fall of Simon Sadler: Blackpool FC saviour and businessman

Simon Sadler, who hails from Blackpool, rose to become the envy of Asia’s financial scene and returned in triumph to rescue the local football club. Is his “long hot streak” now over?

Simon Sadler arrives at the Eastern Magistrates' Court in Hong Kong
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When Simon Sadler bought Blackpool FC in 2019, he was described by The Guardian as a “local boy done good”. That’s something of an understatement. Sadler was by then the doyen of one of Hong Kong’s largest and most successful hedge funds – having grown his fund, Segantii Capital, from a $26 million tiddler to a $6.2 billion giant, with offices in London, New York and Dubai, in little more than a decade. 

If his “long hot streak” was “once the envy of Asia’s financial scene”, Sadler’s fall has been equally dramatic, says Bloomberg. In May, it was announced that the once-mighty fund would be wound down – and funds returned to investors – after the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) started criminal proceedings against Sadler, and a former Segantii trader, Daniel La Rocca, on suspicion of insider dealing. The alleged offence, which both deny, dates back to a 2017 “block trade” involving the Hong Kong-listed retailer, Esprit

“This is a big deal. It’s rare to see criminal charges of this magnitude brought against a prominent fund manager,” a local industry figure told the Financial Times. If convicted, Sadler could face up to seven years in jail. For years, he was the go-to middleman for investment banks that wanted to discreetly sell large blocks of shares “off-market” to avoid depressing a company’s share price. Having become one of the biggest players in Asia, Segantii’s reputation soon spread to trading floors on Wall Street and the City: clients included Bank of America, Citi and Goldman Sachs. But the spectacular collapse of Bill Hwang’s Archegos Capital Management in 2021 brought the workings of this market under the spotlight of regulatory scrutiny. Even before the insider dealing charges, Segantii’s business was suffering as risk-averse banks withdrew. 

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Sadler’s reputation in Hong Kong, which he made his home, was mixed, notes Bloomberg. Former colleagues and associates describe him as “hard-charging, hot-tempered and foul-mouthed”. He was renowned for running Segantii “with an iron grip”. But the firm’s Hong Kong office reeked of nostalgia for home. Sadler combined a belief in Chinese geomancy (he had a feng shui master visit regularly) with posters of Duran Duran and Manchester United. When he bought Blackpool FC for £10m (rescuing the club from the ruinous regime of local tycoon Owen Oyston), Sadler ordered dozens of the team’s tangerine-coloured jerseys as gifts for Segantii’s employees. Back in Britain, he could barely contain his joy at taking over the club that had nurtured the legendary Stanley Matthews. “All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I’m the owner of a football club, I’m walking the pitch and people are singing my name. I’m getting soaked in Champagne.”

Simon Sadler's 'intrepid spirit' 

A Lancastrian to his core, Sadler, 54, was born in the seaside village of Bispham on the outskirts of Blackpool, and educated at the local Warbreck High School, notes the BBC. After gaining a business degree at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), he headed for the City – beginning a career in finance with firms such as Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein and Deutsche Bank that eventually included stints in Moscow and Hong Kong. 

When he founded his own firm in the former UK colony in 2007, the name he chose was replete with significance. The Segrantii (or Settantii), as The Blackpool Gazette observes, were a pre-Roman Celtic tribe with roots on the local coast – renowned for their seafaring prowess and a fiercely “intrepid spirit” that twice saw them see off Julius Caesar

Last seen in London in May – unusually, flanked by bodyguards – Sadler’s next court hearing in Hong Kong is scheduled to take place in July. In his hour of need, he might well reflect that he could do with some of that ancient fighting spirit.

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Jane writes profiles for MoneyWeek and is city editor of The Week. A former British Society of Magazine Editors editor of the year, she cut her teeth in journalism editing The Daily Telegraph’s Letters page and writing gossip for the London Evening Standard – while contributing to a kaleidoscopic range of business magazines including Personnel Today, Edge, Microscope, Computing, PC Business World, and Business & Finance.

She has edited corporate publications for accountants BDO, business psychologists YSC Consulting, and the law firm Stephenson Harwood – also enjoying a stint as a researcher for the due diligence department of a global risk advisory firm.

Her sole book to date, Stay or Go? (2016), rehearsed the arguments on both sides of the EU referendum.

She lives in north London, has a degree in modern history from Trinity College, Oxford, and is currently learning to play the drums.