Private equity heavyweights weigh in on Brexit

Data from the Electoral Commission shows industry names, including KKR’s Johannes Huth and Warburg Pincus’ Joseph Schull, are not leaving the outcome of the upcoming referendum to chance.

The private equity community is firmly in favour of remaining in the European Union – and a handful of industry execs are willing to invest in ensuring their desired outcome.

Analysis of data published by the Electoral Commission last week reveals that from 1 February to 22 April this year private equity executives donated more than £175,000 (€226,000; $255,000) to campaigners for Britain to remain in the EU, while those in the “leave” camp have received £85,000 from industry insiders.

Donations to campaigns lobbying on either side of the debate totalled £15.6 million, with donations from those connected to the financial services industry making up just under half.

KKR’s European head Johannes Huth, who told The Wall Street Journal a British exit from the EU would be disastrous for the British economy and would likely cause the firm to relocate some of its London operations, has donated £20,000 to Conservatives IN, the Conservative Party campaign to remain in the union.

Warburg Pincus managing director Joseph Schull has made two donations to the In Campaign totalling £100,000, while senior executives associated with TowerBrook, Bridgepoint, Bain Capital and Searchlight have also made combined donations to the campaign group of more than £55,000.

In the other camp, Ipex Capital’s Jon Moynihan, MMC Ventures’ Alan Morgan, Better Capital founder Jon Moulton and Abingworth’s David Leathers have all donated to Vote Leave.

Individuals connected to hedge funds donated more than £1 billion to “remain” campaigns. These include David Harding, founder of hedge fund Winton Capital, who donated £750,000, Caxton Associates’ Andrew Law, who donated £200,000, and Man Group CEO Emmanuel Roman, who donated £15,000, all to The In Campaign.

Just one hedge fund exec – Michael Farmer, founder of RK Capital Management – has donated to a “leave” campaign.

The banks have also weighed in. Morgan Stanley and Citigroup donated £250,000 each to The In Campaign.

Other notable pro-EU donors from the financial services community include Bruno Schroder, who donated £50,000, Travelex Founder Lloyd Dorfman, who donated £500,000, and Ian Taylor, president and chief executive officer of Vitol, who donated £160,000.

The largest donation to a “leave” campaign came from Hargreaves Lansdowne founder Peter Hargreaves, who donated £3.2 million to Leave.EU. Peter Cruddas, founder of online trading platform CMC Markets, donated £350,000 to Vote Leave, and real estate investment firm Quidnet Capital Partners’ Richard Tice donated £14,000 to Grassroots Out and £12,000 to GO Movement.

Outside of the realm of financial services, Lord David Sainsbury has made donations to several “remain” campaigns totalling £2.73 million, while long-time Conservative donor Patrick Barbour donated £500,000 to Vote Leave and JD Wetherspooon chairman Tim Martin donated £62,000 to Vote Leave.

In a poll run by PEI earlier this year, 75 percent of private equity practitioners voted for the UK to remain in the EU, with 67 percent of UK-based general partners believing their businesses would be “worse off” if Britain votes to leave.