Sir Tom Hunter acquires stake in Merlin

West Coast Capital, run by Sir Tom Hunter, has reportedly paid £15m for a 20% stake in European life science venture capital firm Merlin Biosciences.

West Coast Capital, a UK private equity firm predominantly focused on retail, brands and property, has moved into bioscience with the acquisition of a 20 percent stake in Merlin Biosciences, a UK venture capital firm headed by Sir Christopher Evans.
 
A spokesperson for West Coast Capital confirmed it had acquired 20 percent of Merlin as it could “see the growth potential”, but did not provide further details.
 
According to the Independent, a UK daily, West Coast Capital, headed by Scottish retail entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter, paid approximately £15 million (€22.3 million) for its stake.
 
West Coast Capital’s traditional domain is the retail and property sector, including its recent £1.1 billion acquisition of McCarthy & Stone, the retirement home builder, alongside HBOS and the Reuben brothers, and Wyevale Garden Centres, purchased for £311 million alongside Iceland’s Baugur Group in April of this year.
 
Merlin Biosciences manages more than €450 million of equity through three funds, the last of which closed in 2004. According to a report late last year, the firm is planning to launch a £100 million to £150 million fourth fund some time this year. The firm has invested in 35 European biotechnology firms since its formation in 1997.
 
More recently, however, Merlin has been in the spotlight for different reasons. Last year, Merlin was the subject of an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office and the City of London Police following allegations by a former company director regarding financial irregularities.
 
Last week, Sir Christopher Evans was arrested in connection with a police inquiry into a loans-for-peerages scandal surrounding the UK’s Labour government.
 
Merlin Biosciences was not available for comment.