A Chicago-based global equity manager which has raised roughly $4 billion in Australia since 2006, remarkably without any local marketing presence, faces review from local supporters like JANA following the departure of the founding chief investment officer and two portfolio managers.

IronBridge Capital Management has enjoyed an enviable run of success since Queensland Investment Corporation seeded its global equity strategy in 2006.

The fundamental manager, whose president Chris Faber and other personnel invented a valuation model known as CFROI (cashflow return on investment), had until then only run US small and ‘smid’ cap strategies. The ‘Global Focus’ strategy has since become by far its biggest source of FUM, sitting at nearly US$6 billion at the end of last year, much of it raised from Australian investors. IronBridge describes the global focus strategy as “a core portfolio of approximately 50 large cap companies diversified across country, industry and life cycle”.

The Future Fund wrote it a $1 billion-plus ticket, while JANA clients such as HostPlus, Telstra Super, Maritime Super, Health Super and AustSafe Super have also awarded it sizeable mandates, compensating for the loss of that original capital when QIC closed down its multimanager business.

However all that success is now under threat following the departure of Stephen Barrow, the chief investment officer and founder of the global focus strategy, as well as two portfolio managers on Ironbridge’s global equities offering, Peter Rutter and James Clarke.

All three were based in IronBridge’s London office, and had previously worked together at Deutsche Asset Managenment. Some observers expect that Barrow, who was understood to have equity in Ironbridge, will start a new shop with Rutter and Clarke.

The chief investment officer of Maritime Super, Glenn Davis, said he was waiting to get a report back from JANA consulting director, David Holston, before deciding on a course of action. He said he understood that Barrow and co., who left earlier this year, had been replaced with “high calibre people”.

It is understood other Australian clients have a similar ‘watch and see’ position. JANA’s Holston was unavailable for comment yesterday.


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