Boardroom feud at Uni spin-out company


first_imgOxford’s £600m spin-out, Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI), has been shaken by boardroom disputes with two key figures leaving the venture. Patrick Pichette, former Google chief financial officer, stepped down as chairman this month, following Charles Conn who left his position as chief executive in November. OSI is one of 62 spin-out companies Oxford produced in 2007-2016, the most of any university. It previously attracted controversy due to investment from Chinese tech company Huawei, which ended after the University suspended donations and sponsorship from the company. Backed by South Africa’s richest woman, Magda Wierzycka, Braavos has become the OSI’s largest shareholder in the last sixth months. The investment fund has seen its holding in the company rise to 20%, after buying shares from Neil Woodford. If an Oxford academic starts a company, the University takes as much as a 50% stake, with half of that given to OSI. OSI stated that Pichette stepped down “to focus on his other international commitments,” though sources claim that a “misalignment in views” was behind his decision. The Telegraph reported that the disagreements arose from the emergence of South African company Braavos Capital as an investor. Jim Wilkinson, interim chief executive at OSI, said: “While the last few months have seen changes to our board and executive team, our strategy has always remained the same – to identify and develop cutting edge science and technology from the University and create and grow world-leading companies.” A former Rhodes scholar at Balliol, Conn said: “I wish to thank management and the board for the opportunity to serve OSI for the last year and look forward to the company’s next phase of growth.” Entrepreneur Hermann Hauser has criticised this system. In 2017 he said: “It’s a double whammy that Oxford suffers from. One is this monopoly that the university asks for. But then they have done this deal with OSI where they basically pledged all the IP to a single fund, preventing competition in spinouts, which is always bad.” He will be succeeded by Chris Chambers, an OSI board member and investor. OSI is Britain’s largest university spin-out company, with its funds being used to invest in science and technology companies. This is unlike other universities, where it is optional to work with venture funds. last_img

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