Manjit Dale: The man behind TDR Capital’s quiet success story

Wednesday 10th July 2024 06:48 EDT

Manjit Dale, 59, co-founded TDR Capital with Stephen Robertson, 64, both former investment bankers who quietly amassed a fortune through leveraged buyouts over two decades.

TDR now holds a portfolio of 15 businesses, including well-known brands like David Lloyd and Slug & Lettuce owner Stonegate, collectively employing about 200,000 people in the UK. Operating from a single office near London’s Oxford Street, TDR manages over €15 billion (£12.7 billion) in assets with a team of 85 professionals.

The firm gained significant attention with its acquisition of Asda in 2021, marking a shift towards greater public scrutiny. Despite ambitions to acquire Boots, the UK’s largest pharmacy chain, plans have been stalled as current owner Walgreens intends to retain ownership. Nonetheless, TDR continues to grow as a formidable presence in the retail sector.

Dale and Robertson’s partnership began in the Nineties at Bankers Trust, leading to the establishment of TDR in 2002 with an initial €160 million investment from US hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones. Known for his interest in pubs and bars, Dale personally invested in Flight Club, a “social darts” chain, and purchased The Double Red Duke, a Cotswolds hotel and gastropub.

Former insiders describe TDR’s culture as “work hard, play hard,” often transitioning from impromptu lunches to late-night socialising reminiscent of the Roman Empire’s final days. Despite this, the firm is recognised for its professionalism, recruiting top talent from elite universities and leveraging data science in its investment strategies.

Dale’s approach of focusing on fewer, larger deals drew scepticism from some investors but garnered loyal support due to his sharp business acumen. Enabled by a decade of low interest rates, TDR capitalised on acquiring asset-backed businesses with cheap debt, facilitated by Dale’s relationships with lenders cultivated during annual ski trips.

In recent years, TDR’s top executives have received substantial payouts, averaging £31.8 million annually, with additional potential for significant returns through carried interest from successful funds. This approach has positioned TDR’s partners to potentially earn tens of millions of pounds from successful deals.

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