Leave backer shrugs after suffering big Brexit losses

Peter Hargreaves

Peter Hargreaves

Peter Hargreaves, co-founder and owner of almost a third of London-listed broker Hargreaves Lansdown, said on June 28 that the combination of the plunging shares in the company and weaker sterling was part of the natural rhythm of the markets.

“I’m not hanging my head in shame, I’m not thinking ‘O woe is me,’” he said. “I’m quite sanguine. I have been investing in the market all my life, the market goes up and the market goes down.”

The value of his shares in the company fell £365 million from their June 23 peak to £1.76 billion, while the plummeting pound amplified the losses in dollar terms.

Hargreaves gave £3.2 million to Leave.EU, a campaign group with a particularly sharp focus on immigration. But he said controlling immigration wasn’t his major concern. He said the UK would come to a new trade settlement – and warned that it would disappoint some Leave voters.

“There will be a lot of gnashing of teeth” among some who voted Leave, he said.

A fierce debate has begun about what the Brexit vote means for the future of the country. The political leaders of the Leave campaign have been vacillating on prevote promises of an extra £350 million a week for the National Health Service and tighter immigration, as different agendas emerge.

Hargreaves favours a deal with the EU similar that of Norway, which would give the UK access to the single market but not limit immigration from the EU – and he wants the Conservative party to quickly select a new leader to get on with it.

“No economy or market likes uncertainty, so it’s absolutely vital that you get on with it PDQ,” he said. “What the government needs is people who’ve actually run businesses, people who have written contracts, people who have been successful in business to help them with this.”

He said he thinks Michael Spencer, chief executive of broker Icap, would be a good choice to serve on a committee to negotiate terms with the EU, as would “smart cookie” and Remain supporter Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of ad group WPP. If approached, Lancashire-born Hargreaves said he would be happy to put in his “four-pennethworth”, too.

Since retiring from the company he founded in 2015, Hargreaves has devoted himself to his racehorses, Brexit tweets and traveling the world – holidaying in the Maldives, Dubai, Croatia, Venice and Morocco this year already.

This story was first published by The Wall Street Journal

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