Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman has taken a minority stake in luxury British watch brand Bremont after he became one of its customers, providing financial backing as the company plans to bring large-scale watch manufacturing back to the UK.
Ackman has invested in the group alongside existing investors Hellcat in a funding round worth £48.4mn, which gives Bremont a valuation of more than £100mn, according to the company.
Brothers Giles and Nick English founded Bremont in 2002. The brand is best known for watches marketed to pilots and members of the military. In 2014 the company created a number of limited-edition watches containing a piece of muslin used to wrap the Wright brothers’ plane in 1903.
Ackman said he got in touch with the English brothers last summer after buying several watches at the company’s shop in London’s Mayfair.
“I wrote a handwritten note to the founders saying, ‘I admire your company, I love watches and I would love to learn more’,” Ackman told the Financial Times. Nick English contacted the investor and they closed the deal in October.
The founder of Pershing Square Capital Management has invested in privately held Bremont with his own funds, not Pershing Square’s. He said he views himself as a long-term shareholder and will now help the company find a chief executive as it grows.
“There is a benefit to having us invest versus private equity or a sale,” Ackman said. “Bremont has a very long mandate and we can be a forever investor.”
Ackman said he believed Bremont could reach the scale of Swiss watchmaker Breitling, which was valued at $4.5bn late last year when private equity firm Partners Group took control of the company.
Ackman built a fearsome reputation as an activist investor on Wall Street, amassing positions at public companies and agitating for change. Pershing Square last year embraced a more low-key approach.
Bremont’s biggest undertaking has been to bring watchmaking back to Britain with a 35,000 sq ft wing-shaped facility in Henley-on-Thames that opened in 2021 and is reported to have cost the company £20mn. Now it has hired headhunters Egon Zehnder to help find a chief executive who can help the company’s global expansion.
Ackman has made several venture investments with his own funds and money from his family foundation, including in South Korean ecommerce company Coupang and Winners Alliance, a subsidiary of the Professional Tennis Players Association co-founded by Novak Djokovic.
Ackman said he has one golden rule when it comes to personal investments: “If it takes more than 15 minutes, I won’t do it,” he said. “Investing in great companies is my version of art collecting.”
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