Chris Hohn, the investor at the centre of the battle for ABN Amro, has moved to distance himself from other activist hedge funds by stepping down from an investment vehicle controlled by the Rothschild family.
Mr Hohn, who runs The Children’s Investment Fund, announced on Friday that he would stand down as a non-executive director of RIT Capital Partners, the investment trust chaired by Lord Rothschild, at its annual meeting next month.
RIT Capital has an investment in Atticus, the hedge fund that is currently urging Barclays to drop its agreed takeover bid for ABN Amro. Nat Rothschild, co-chairman of Atticus and Lord Rothschild’s son, is also a director of RIT Capital.
Mr Hohn, who joined the board of RIT Capital two years ago, announced his decision amid growing scrutiny of the links between activist hedge funds as they take on ever-larger targets.
TCI and Atticus first attracted attention from regulators several years ago when they successfully agitated for Deutsche Börse to abandon its bid for the London Stock Exchange. The UK Financial Services Authority recently set out guidelines for activist investors.
Both TCI and RIT Capital declined to comment. However, people close to the matter pointed out that TCI and Atticus have taken conflicting stances in the ABN Amro battle. TCI, which has a stake of about 3 per cent in ABN Amro, is keen to extract the highest possible offer for the Dutch bank.
Meanwhile Atticus, which owns about 1 per cent of Barclays, is trying to undermine one of two competing bidders.
Barclays will next week decide whether formally to launch its offer for ABN Amro or to seek another extension to its bid.
Both Barclays and a consortium led by Royal Bank of Scotland are awaiting a decision by the Dutch Supreme Court over the planned sale of LaSalle, ABN Amro’s US subsidiary, to Bank of America.
The attorney-general to the Supreme Court this week advised that ABN Amro be allowed to proceed with the sale without approval from shareholders.
If the Supreme Court takes the same view, the RBS consortium, which includes Santander of Spain and Fortis, the Belgo-Dutch group, is expected to revise its break-up bid for ABN Amro to exclude LaSalle.
Fortis said on Friday that it would hold a shareholder meeting on August 6 to approve the €15bn ($20bn) share issue it plans to fund the bid. Both Santander and RBS are expected to seek approval from shareholders in late July, clearing the way for a showdown with Barclays in September.