Britain's EU referendum is turning into a battle between hedge funds

Battle lines are being draw in London’s small hedge fund community over the issue of whether Britain should stay within the European Union or not.

And the deep pockets of those on either side means they could decide the argument.

David Harding, the founder of hedge fund Winton Capital Management, is joining the board of pro-EU campaign group Stronger in Europe and reportedly donating several million to the campaign, reported the Guardian and the Financial Times on Friday.

Both papers say that another hedge fund boss, Egerton Capital’s John Armitage, is also donating to the Stronger in Europe campaign, which is backing a vote to stay in the European Union in the 2017 referendum on Britain’s membership.

Harding and Armitage are the first prominent hedge fund managers to take a pro-EU stance. Crispin Odey, founder of Odey Asset Management, was one of the founding members of Stronger in Europe’s opposing campaign group Vote Leave and Sir Michael Hintz, who founded hedge fund CQS back in 1999, has reportedly made a big donation to the campaign.

These hedge fund titans are likely to play a huge role in deciding the outcome of the referendum, as they’re likely to be one of the single biggest sources of funding for either side.

The Financial Times writes:

Big companies, which bankrolled the Yes campaign in the 1975 referendum on British UK membership, are reluctant to enter the fray this time. They would require shareholder approval to make donations and some fear a backlash from eurosceptic customers.

That has made hedge fund managers a prime target for fundraisers on both sides of the argument, not least because many are frustrated with a post-financial crisis Brussels directive that brought hedge funds and private groups under direct regulation for the first time.

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