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10th Anniversary Grant Thornton Quoted Company Awards winners announced

Grant Thornton UK LLP and Vitesse Media are delighted to announce the award winners at last night’s 10th anniversary Grant Thornton Quoted Company Awards, held at the Natural History Museum.

  • Chairman of the Year: Martin Lightbody of Finsbury Food
  • Finance Director of the Year: Keith Butcher of Optimal Payments
  • Non-executive Director of the Year: Mark Laurence of Dart Group
  • Investor of the Year: Mike Prentis of the BlackRock Smaller Companies fund
  • IPO of the Year: Plus 500
  • Deal of the Year: Ithaca Energy’s acquisition of Valiant Petroleum
  • Entrepreneur of the Year: Vinodka Murria of Advanced Computer Software
  • CEO of the Year:  Richard Law of GB Group
  • Fund Manager of the Decade: Harry Nimmo of Standard Life
  • Broker of the Year: finnCap
  • PR firm of the Year: Redleaf Polhill
  • Company of the Decade: ASOS

Niki Baker, CEO of Vitesse Media commented:

“It is wonderful to celebrate 10 years of the Grant Thornton Quoted Company Awards. This year presented a fantastic opportunity to recognise the achievements made by companies and individuals throughout a challenging decade. All of the winners and people shortlisted for an award demonstrated innovative work that has defied a turbulent macro-economic climate and continued to drive growth and value.”

Commenting on the award for Fund Manager of the Decade Philip Secrett, Head of Public Company Advisory, Grant Thornton UK LLP, said:

“The shortlist for this category contained some exceptional names, and fund managers who are celebrated as personalities as much as they are lauded for their performance. It is a mark of the quality of active management within the UK small-cap sector that it can offer so many market-beating performers. However, in the event there was no denying the record of Harry Nimmo over the last ten years. His consistent process and concentrated portfolio has delivered truly extraordinary results that are in excess of even the excellent performance of his peers.”

Full details of the winners and their biographies are detailed below.

Chairman of the Year: Martin Lightbody of Finsbury Food

Martin joined the board of Finsbury after it acquired cake specialist Lightbody Group in 2007. During his tenure he has overseen a considerable cut in the company’s once-hefty debt position and a transformation in its share price. He also played a pivotal role in the sale of Finsbury’s ‘free-from’ range of cakes and breads for £21 million. Group profits for the year to June 2013 grew from £4.6 million to £5.5 million.

Finance Director of the Year: Keith Butcher of Optimal Payments

Keith Butcher has served at a number of AIM-quoted technology outfits, having previously been the finance director of online payments specialist Datacash Group. Butcher has been pivotal in the development of Optimal Payments, playing an integral part in raising funds for the company and strengthening its balance sheet. Shares in the group have almost quadrupled in the last 12 months after a raft of contract wins.

Non-Executive Director of the Year: Mark Laurence of Dart Group

Mark joined the team at Dart Group in 2009, having previously worked as a transport analyst for many years before entering the world of fund management. Mark was judged by the panel to have been a ‘stabilising influence’ on the company in a period in which Dart made considerable progress in both its package holiday and logistics businesses. Meanwhile, motor sector veteran Nigel Stead was highly commended for the work he has done at Vertu Motors, where he was said to be a ‘big name in a small sector’.

Investor of the Year: Mike Prentis of the BlackRock Smaller Companies fund

Mike Prentis of the Blackrock Smaller Companies investment trust has a history of calling markets right, most recently backing the UK’s housing sector and benefitting from its remarkable recovery over the 2012/2013 period. The top-performing fund manager’s biggest holdings are UK house builder Bellway, fitted kitchen provider Howden Joinery and commercial property landlord Workspace Group. His fund was the highest ranked in its sector in the period under review and returned £1,704 for every £1,000 invested in 2013, compared to £1,447 for its peer group.

IPO of the Year: Winner Plus 500

Israeli CFD and forex trading platform Plus 500 won the respect of our judges. Having raised an impressive £46 million to fund its activities, the company – which was floated by broker Liberum – is symptomatic of a year in which a number of early-stage, growth-focused businesses flocked to AIM. Plus 500 is led by chief executive Gal Haber, a veteran of the Israeli technology industry. Floated at 115p, the company’s shares have already more than doubled in price since its IPO last July.

Deal of the Year: Ithaca Energy’s acquisition of Valiant Petroleum

In a closely-fought category, the judges decided to give the award to Ithaca Energy for its £203 million acquisition of fellow North Sea oil play Valiant Petroleum. Two of the biggest names in the AIM British oil sector, the deal saw Ithaca considerably expand its scope and assets after swallowing its rival. Healthcare software specialist Advanced Computer Software was also highly commended for its canny £110 million acquisition of Computer Software Holdings.

Entrepreneur of the Year: Vinodka Murria of Advanced Computer Software

Now a legendary figure within the technology space, Vin has been involved in a number of success stories. At Advanced Computer Software she has helped the company to become an AIM star, carrying out a number of acquisitions while leading the group to rocketing profits and sales. She was described by the judges as a ‘consistently successful’ entrepreneur who is as comfortable doing corporate deals as she is dealing with shareholders or clients.

CEO of the Year: Richard Law of GB Group

Shares in identity management venture GB Group have almost doubled in the last 12 months. Having joined the board as finance director in 1995, Law took the reins of the company in 2001. He was involved in the acquisitions of criminal records specialist TMG.tv for £3 million and Crewe-based criminal records outfit CRD UK for £1.32 million, as well as being pivotal to the group’s surging profits, most recently reporting a doubling of the bottom line to £1.3 million for the six months to September.

Fund manager of the Decade: Harry Nimmo of Standard Life

The shortlist for this category contained some exceptional names, fund managers who are celebrated as personalities as much as they are lauded for their performance. It is a mark of the quality of active management within the UK small-cap sector that it can offer so many market-beating performers. However, in the event there was no gainsaying the record of Harry Nimmo, who has returned more than £7,000 for every £1,000 invested in his Standard Life UK Smaller Companies Trust over the last ten years. His consistent process and concentrated portfolio has delivered truly extraordinary results that are in excess of even the excellent performance of his peers.