The fall of Crispin Odey, an old-school City icon

Crispin Odey cultivated a reputation as one of the smartest guys in the financial industry and by 2008 his firm was managing $5.25bn in assets. Now, his empire is crumbling. Jane Lewis reports

Crispin Odey
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Earlier this year, Crispin Odey joined colleagues at Grosvenor House in Mayfair for “the hedge-fund world’s equivalent of the Oscars”, says the Financial Times. Odey Asset Management won “firm of the year”. 

Few of those celebrating the win at the black-tie gala would have guessed that, within months, the £3bn asset manager would all but cease to exist. 

Felled by a sex scandal, the firm is set to break itself up and Odey faces a possible rash of legal action over allegations of sexual misconduct. 

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At least two of the 13 women he is alleged to have assaulted are pursuing civil claims. Odey has denied any wrongdoing. 

The Financial Conduct Authority is also investigating whether Odey is a “fit and proper” individual to work in financial services over allegations he breached integrity rules in dismissing the executive committee of his firm in 2021 for “an improper purpose”.

“Crispin Odious”

As banks and other institutions rushed to cut ties, one stockbroker told clients that Crispin Odey has become “Crispin Odious”, according to The Times. 

Renowned for making £220m in a day in 2016 by betting markets would fall sharply after a Leave vote, Odey was already, to many, the face of all that was unacceptable about the City. 

An arch-Brexiteer, the Old Harrovian was accused by Remainers of gloating over the referendum result. “Il mattino ha l’oro in bocca – the morning has gold in its mouth,” he told an interviewer on Brexit morning. 

Still more insidious, says Byline Times, were Odey’s close links with Tory politicians. Cultivating friendships with Boris Johnson among others, he was one of the most influential hedge-fund donors in UK politics. 

Last September when the ex-chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng (a former protégé at Odey Asset Management) presented his ill-fated “mini-budget”, it was reported that Kwarteng enjoyed a “budget day cocktail party” with financiers, including hedge-fund managers who stood to from the crash caused by his policies. 

Odey was noticeably absent – true to form, he was away grouse shooting on the fateful day, says the Daily Mail – but still made millions from bets against UK gilts and the pound, claiming he’d seen it all coming “from miles away”. 

The only son of a Yorkshire family that made its fortune in the tanning industry, Odey read history and economics at Oxford and trained as a barrister, but switched to the City when his family ran into financial difficulties. 

In 1985 he began working at Barings International, where he “flourished”, says the FT. But when Barings shifted its investment approach away from “individual star bankers”, he decided to set up on his own. 

With backing from investors including the billionaire financier George Soros, he formed Odey Asset Management in 1991. The timing was propitious. 

“It was the dawn of an era in which soaring stockmarkets created vast fortunes for a growing number of hedge funds run by imperious managers.” 

Odey played the part perfectly. Although the early years of his fund were “tumultuous”, his “willingness to endure risk levels most financiers could not tolerate helped him recover” – a pattern repeated throughout his career. 

His reputation as one of the “smartest guys” in the City was sealed when he cleaned up during the financial crisis, having instructed staff to start shorting banks in January 2007. 

By the end of 2008, assets under management had grown to $5.25bn.

Devotee of the two-bottle lunch

Odey and his trademark braces epitomised the old-school culture of the City, says The Times, and he was “a devotee of that declining institution, the two-bottle lunch”. 

After a short first marriage to Rupert Murdoch’s oldest daughter, Prudence, he married Nichola Pease – a banker with dynastic ties to some of the City’s largest financial institutions – in 1991. 

For a while, “they were improbably labelled the ‘Posh and Becks’ of the City”. Odey’s marriage crumbled after his acquittal of indecent assault charges in 2021. 

Now he has been ousted from his firm, too. “I still think tomorrow they’re gonna take it all away from me,” he said with a laugh after betting on Brexit in 2016. 

Percipient to the last, you might say.

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.