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Tigue exiting Syncona as investment banker Gee joins board

6 June 2019

UK’s largest listed life sciences fund takes another step away from its roots as Battle Against Cancer investment trust with chairman Jeremy Tigue announcing he will retire in December.

Syncona (SYNC), the UK’s largest listed life sciences fund, is taking another step away from its roots as the Battle Against Cancer investment trust (Bacit), with chairman Jeremy Tigue announcing he will retire at the end of the year.

Tigue, a former fund manager of F&C (FCIT) investment trust, has chaired the investment company since its launch in 2012 as an innovative fund of funds that persuaded its fund managers to donate their fees to cancer research

The 60-year-old oversaw Bacit's transition to Syncona after a merger with Syncona Partners, the investment arm of the Wellcome Trust, at the end of 2016.

The £1.5 billion investment trust is now dedicated to developing a portfolio of 10 early-stage, university spin-offs, including cancer specialists Autolus and Nightstar, which it helped found and float on the Nasdaq US technology exchange.

Tigue will be succeeded by investment banker Melanie Gee who has joined the Syncona board as a non-executive director as chairman designate.

Gee built her career at UBS where she worked for 25 years leading numerous transactions for the bank's corporate clients. In 2008 she joined rival Lazard & Co as a senior adviser and is also a non-executive at Standard Life Aberdeen. Her previous non-exec roles including engineer Weir Group (WEIR) and power generator Drax Group (DRX).

Gee said she was joining at ‘an exciting time for the company’. She added: ‘I am pleased to have the opportunity to be part of that as it builds on its impressive momentum of creating successful life sciences companies.’ 

Tigue, a prolific non-exec himself with positions on the boards of Mercantile (MRC), Monks (MKS), and Aberdeen Standard Equity Income (ASEI) investment trusts, said he was ‘greatly privileged to chair the company through seven exciting years’ and looked forward to handing over to Gee.

‘She has a wealth of expertise built from 30 years in investment banking and is an experienced board member, serving on the boards of both FTSE 100 and 250 companies,’ he said.

Tigue’s departure is the latest change at Syncona. In March, Arabella Cecil, head of fund investments, left after the company decided to sell most of her portfolio. Cecil had previously been Bacit's chief financial officer.

After a turbulent end to last year that saw the portfolio rack up losses, Syncona announced it would wind down Cecil’s funds this year and hold more capital to focus on ‘liquidity and capital preservation’. This makes it a purer play on life sciences.

After Tigue's departure just one non-executive director from Bacit will be left at Syncona: Thomas Henderson, the brother of fund manager James Henderson, who founded the investment trust seven years ago.

After a strong two years of gains, the shares have slipped back 13% this year. The retreat was prompted by Wellcome reducing its stake in Syncona by 8.7% in March although the shares still trade at 22% premium above their net asset value.

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