New Zealand’s most high-profile boutique manager, Fisher Funds, suffered a setback last week with the departure of chief investment officer and part-owner, Warren Couillault.

It is understood Couillault resigned from Fisher Funds following a disagreement with the group’s founder and majority share-holder, Carmel Fisher, about the company’s strategic direction. According to industry sources, Couillault had favoured a listing of the Fisher operating company last year. Instead, Fisher listed the manager’s new Marlin Global Fund on the NZX in October 2007. However, Fisher denied rumours of any “rift” between herself and Couillault telling New Zealand media “Warren has decided it’s time to think about things and do something else”. Since resigning as chief investment officer, Couillault also sold down his 27 per cent stake in Fisher Funds to Carmel and Hugh Fisher – a deal that has been estimated to be worth in excess of NZ$5 million. In a statement released last week, Carmel Fisher said she would now run the group’s New Zealand share portfolios alone. Frank Jasper and Ken Applegate maintain control of Fisher’s Australian and international portfolios respectively. “While Warren is leaving at a difficult time for the industry, with markets worldwide experiencing a difficult period, I must stress that his decision is in no way linked to current fund performance or investment decisions,” Fisher said. Fisher Funds manages over NZ$1 billion including an almost NZ$250 million small companies mandate for the New Zealand Superannuation Fund. A spokesperson for the NZ$13.2 billion New Zealand Superannuation Fund said the organisation was aware of the management changes at Fisher and continually monitored all of the 40 plus mandates it had awarded.

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