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Crispin Odey, founding partner of Odey Asset Management LLP, outside Hendon Magistrates’ Court during a break in proceedings in London, U.K., on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Famously bearish hedge fund manager and prominent Brexit supporter Odey will fight a criminal charge of indecent assault stemming from an incident during the summer of 1998. Photographer: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Octopus: the allegations against Crispin Odey

Octopus: the allegations against Crispin Odey

Crispin Odey, founding partner of Odey Asset Management LLP, outside Hendon Magistrates’ Court during a break in proceedings in London, U.K., on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Famously bearish hedge fund manager and prominent Brexit supporter Odey will fight a criminal charge of indecent assault stemming from an incident during the summer of 1998. Photographer: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty Images

One of Britain’s richest and most powerful men was cleared of sexual assault last year. Four more women have now come forward with similar allegations that Crispin Odey, a major donor to the Conservative party, sexually assaulted them. Other women allege that he sexually harassed them at the offices of his Mayfair hedge fund company

Crispin Odey is one of Britain’s richest men and best known hedge fund managers.

He cultivates the image of a country squire, shooting grouse and fishing for salmon, while making hundreds of millions of pounds for his clients and himself. He correctly predicted the value of insurers would rise after the September 11 terror attacks, which banks would collapse in the global financial crisis, and that the stock market and sterling would crash in the event of Brexit, a cause to which he had donated almost a million pounds. He has donated yet more money to the Conservatives, Ukip, Boris Johnson, and Jacob Rees-Mogg. He hired his former employee Kwasi Kwarteng as a consultant after he’d been elected as an MP and before he became a minister.

For more than two decades, Odey, who is now 63, has also been associated with something other than politics and money: rumours of sexual harassment and assault. 

In March 2021, at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, he was acquitted of sexually assaulting a woman in 1998, when she was a young banker and he was already a star hedge fund manager.

“The relief,” Odey said after hearing the judge deliver his verdict. “The relief is awful.”

Three days after he was cleared, the Sunday Times published the account of another woman who alleged Odey had assaulted her more than a decade earlier. A week later, Bloomberg reported the accounts of two women who claimed Odey had sexually harassed them. Odey strenuously denied both reports. 

Institutional Investor published a piece about the trial by Hazel Sheffield. She reported that Odey had called her a day before his trial to explain that what had happened in 1998 was that he simply propositioned the woman, she became angry, and stormed out. On this call, he asked her: “Would you have done the same, Hazel?” 

“Impossible to say.” 

“How old were you then, Hazel, at that point?”

“Twelve.”

“I think you should have run out!” 

She then heard Odey’s hoarse chuckle down the line.

In the course of a months-long investigation, I have documented the stories of five women who allege Crispin Odey sexually assaulted them. The women who allege Odey assaulted them do not know each other. They live in different places and work in different fields. They are different ages. Their accounts span 1998 to 2021.

I would have liked to speak to Crispin Odey to hear his side of the story and his response to the allegations. I first asked him for an interview and gave him a list of areas I would like to ask him about, including sexual assault and harassment. He did not reply. I then wrote to him and his company with a detailed list of the allegations, so that they would have an opportunity to respond to my reporting. Just before our deadline, I received an email from Odey Asset Management’s chief executive in which he said that the company treats all allegations “extremely seriously” but that it would be inappropriate to respond to me further due to “confidentiality and privacy issues”. Crispin Odey, through his personal assistant, told me the allegations contain “very many falsehoods and inaccuracies”. 

Crispin Odey’s response has left me without specific denials to the specific allegations. All I can go on is that, in the past, he has always denied similar allegations. And that the only time that one of these allegations was subjected to the scrutiny of the court system it resulted in an acquittal. Yet it is remarkable how much the allegations I have heard overlap, despite the women not knowing each other. Here they are:

  • In 1998, Odey invited a young banker to his home in Chelsea to talk about work. The prosecution in last year’s court case alleged that he ordered Chinese food, changed from his suit into a robe, then lunged at the woman and groped her breasts and legs in his kitchen. She wrestled him off and ran out. In court, he said that he did invite the woman home, that he did want to sleep with her, but that he did not assault her; that she became angry after he propositioned her and she stormed out. The presiding judge acquitted Odey of assault, saying he could leave the courthouse with his “good character intact”.
  • In 2004, Crispin Odey met a young woman at a wedding. She worked in financial services. According to the woman, he invited her to his home in Chelsea to talk about work. He gave her a tour of the house, including the bedroom, which worried her. Downstairs, according to the woman’s account, he approached her, lunged at her, groped at her breasts and legs, and tried forcing his tongue into her mouth. She noticed his “knob” was out. She fought him off and never saw him again. Crispin Odey didn’t respond to this specific allegation.
  • In 2006, Odey had a one-on-one meeting with a senior business executive. According to the woman, they were sitting at a table in a meeting room at the offices of Odey Asset Management in Mayfair. At one point in the meeting, he got up and walked around the room while talking about business. Then, the woman says, he lunged at her, felt his hands running up and down her body, and his tongue on her face. She fought him off and he then left the room. She hasn’t spoken to him since. Crispin Odey didn’t respond to this specific allegation.
  • In 2009, Crispin Odey invited a young woman to supper at a restaurant in Belgravia on the promise that he would offer her friendly life advice. After some small talk, according to the woman, he lunged at her from across the table and groped both her breasts. She fought him off and asked what he thought he was doing. He then lunged at her again, trying to force his tongue into her mouth. Crispin Odey didn’t respond to this specific allegation.
  • In 2021, at a private social event, Crispin Odey assaulted a well-connected woman who confided in a mutual friend of hers and Crispin Odey’s about it. All I can say in order to protect her identity is that the allegation is similar in many respects to the others – although it includes Odey forcing one of the woman’s hands onto his hard penis before she was able to free herself from his clutches. Odey didn’t respond to this specific allegation.

The last allegation is particularly important. It dates from late last year, a few months after Odey’s acquittal for assault. 

I have also heard a number of accounts of behaviour which could amount to Odey’s sexual harassment. The allegations include sexualised comments to a job candidate and, in the case of a former receptionist, crude, sexual jokes, unwanted massages, and propositioning. 

In a diary entry from her time there, the former receptionist alleged Odey returned from a “boozy lunch”, came across her alone in a corridor at the office and told her “I could attack you”. She replied: “Please don’t”. He said: “You could sue me for that”.

The women I spoke to said they wanted to protect women in the future. Many said they were emboldened to speak to me because they felt the world, after #MeToo, was ready to listen. One told me that she would never want her daughters to experience what she did. Others said they were motivated to speak after one woman’s allegation went to court – and ended in an acquittal.

That woman – the one who went all the way to court – always accepted that her case would be hard to prove. Her allegation dates from almost a quarter of a century ago. The judge pointed to what he described as “troubling inconsistencies” in her evidence before acquitting Crispin Odey. But, as she wrote to prosecutors when they were still deliberating whether to charge Crispin Odey, “the chance to be heard is a victory in itself.”

​​None of the other allegations of sexual assault that I have documented have been tested in court. The incentives for women who claim to have been sexually abused to step forward can feel low. If their allegations even make it to court, the proceedings can be punishing and conviction rates are low. As a result, women feel – as the women I have talked to do – that it is possible for a man like Crispin Odey to hold onto a reputation that their testimony suggests he may not deserve.