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TMP bearing up for the future

The Money Portal hopes the departure of former chief executive Tony Morris and recent management changes will spell the end of bad publicity for the firm.

Non-executive director Rod Sinclair, a former director of the Securities & Futures Authority, says the backing of US investment bank Bear Stearns is evidence that the firm is now on the right track.

Morris resigned two weeks ago ahead of a court case brought by the Department of Trade and Industry concerning his role as director of 11 firms, seven of which have been dissolved and three of which went into liquidation.

One of the companies was run with former TMP director Andrew Ritchie, who stepped down in March and is being sued by TMP for alleged breaches of contract along with another former director, John Fairclough.

Graham Bates, a former director of TMP who still retains a significant shareholding in the firm, says it has recruited two solid non-executive directors in Sinclair, who joined in April 2004, and chairman Richard Hambro, who joined in June 2004.

He adds that Bear Stearns was fully aware of the DTI’s investigation into Morris when it provided backing for TMP’s acquisition plans and increased its stake from 3.5 to 7.5 per cent in July for an undisclosed sum. TMP’s acquisition plans are understood to be still on track, allowing for delays associated with the board changes.

Bates says he is concerned that bad publicity surrounding TMP is giving the wrong impression to the industry and the firm made some key moves in the last year which show it to have a solid future.

It is understood that Morris, while described as chief executive at TMP, was a deal-maker, with his title hanging over from 2003 when the business was founded. Managing director Richard Craven was effectively responsible for running the company.

Sinclair says Craven and the directors have spent a year bedding down the business. Assets under management have grown from 745m a year ago to 1.4bn. Revenues in Bates and Willis Owen, TMP’s investment research subsidiary and its discount brokerage, are up by 32 and 45 per cent respectively.

Sinclair says Richard Pearson, brought in from Alexander Forbes as operations director in December 2004, has done an effective job alongside John Ellis, recruited from JP Morgan in June 2004 as director responsible for the platform and administration business.

Bates was sacked from TMP at the end of 2003 after the firm bought his company. He has since won an estimated 700,000 in an out-of-court settlement. He was issued 4.2m in TMP shares during the buyout and remains on good terms with the firm.

Sinclair says: “The relationship with Graham has been repaired. The root cause of TMP’s problems lay with one individual who is now out of the business. We have dealt with the situation effectively and are now in a position to move forward.”

Bates says: “I am still a shareholder in TMP and I do not like what has been coming out about the business. We have attracted some good key executives and Bear Stearns, the fourth biggest investment bank in the world, has put up money for the firm’s expansion plans. I am optimistic about the firm’s future.”

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