Horseman’s Driver Founds English Vineyard

Jan 3 2011 | 5:21am ET

Another hedge fund manager is giving up Park Avenue—or Mayfair, in this case—in favor of green acres.

Horseman Capital Management’s Mark Driver found himself at a firm without its namesake when founder John Horseman retired following a run of poor performance. Most of the firm’s investors followed him out the door. As did Driver, who is now planning one of the largest vineyards in all of Europe in southern England.

England, of course, is not exactly known as a wine-producing hotbed: It makes about 0.01% of the world’s wine, compared Italy’s 18%, France’s 16% and the U.S.’s 9%. Indeed, in 2008, only two of the 60 countries producing wine tracked by the Wine Institute made less than Britain: tiny Malta and Estonia.

But the country’s sparkling wines have attracted more attention and plaudits in recent years, and that’s what Driver plans to make on his 600 acre East Sussex vineyard, named, like the farm it is based at, Rathfinny.

“I know it will be a lot of hard work,” Driver told The Telegraph. “It’s a total life change. I know nothing about wine. I’ve just drunk a lot of it.”

Of course, he’ll have help on the £3.6 million vineyard-to-be. Driver has hired a veteran of New Zealand’s burgeoning wine industry to run the vineyard, which will be planted with 72,000 German vines (Germany, if you were wondering, was the world’s eighth-largest wine producer in 2008, accounting for 3.7% of the world’s supply).

Driver hopes Rathfinny will eventually make a million bottles of bubbly every year.

Driver’s not the first London alternative investments pro to give up the industry to get their hands dirty. Last year, BlackRock’s Graham Birch quit running several hedge funds to run a dairy farm in the south of England. Alchemy Partners’ Jon Moulton is also a winemaker on the side.

Driver’s not foreswearing money management forever.

“I know I have a fallback position and most people don’t,” he said. “It’s not being done on a shoestring”—Driver bought himself a £35,000 tractor for Christmas—“and if it doesn’t work out I will go back to finance.”


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