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RUTH SUNDERLAND on the arrogance of City outside Neil Woodford who lost his golden touch

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Neil Woodford, who last night suffered the ultimate humiliation of seeing his financial empire collapse, was once the most acclaimed investment guru in Britain with a Pied Piper following among small investors.

But, as anyone who has met him will testify, the downfall of the 59-year-old is due to fatal flaws in his character. Greed, naturally – it comes with the territory – but above all arrogance.

Even now, Woodford’s self-belief is so unshakeable he says he cannot accept the decision to close down his flagship fund. Unbelievable though it may seem, he still believes he could have traded his way out of trouble.

This is a man who has such faith in his own abilities he thinks that when his investments go down, it means the market, not him, is wrong.

Neil Woodford, who last night suffered the ultimate humiliation of seeing his financial empire collapse, was once the most acclaimed investment guru in Britain with a Pied Piper following among small investors

Neil Woodford, who last night suffered the ultimate humiliation of seeing his financial empire collapse, was once the most acclaimed investment guru in Britain with a Pied Piper following among small investors

It is a vertiginous fall for a man who seemed to have a genius for making money.

His followers were attracted by an impeccable track record: in his previous job, he helped small investors turn a typical £10,000 investment into a stupendous £230,000 over 20 years.

So it is not surprising thousands entrusted him with their life savings when he set up his own firm, Woodford Investment Management, which is now being wound down.

Those savers stand to lose most of their money and Woodford is a City pariah whose name goes into the annals of shame along with the likes of Sir Philip Green and Fred Goodwin.

The shaven-headed money man has the build of a scrum half and the dress sense of a Mondeo-driving golf-club habitue, favouring chinos and jumpers rather than a suit.

Unlike his disillusioned investors, he can console himself with the many millions he has extracted along the way.

The shaven-headed money man has the build of a scrum half and the dress sense of a Mondeo-driving golf-club habitue, favouring chinos and jumpers rather than a suit. Woodford is also an enthusiastic rider

The shaven-headed money man has the build of a scrum half and the dress sense of a Mondeo-driving golf-club habitue, favouring chinos and jumpers rather than a suit. Woodford is also an enthusiastic rider

He lives with his blonde wife Madelaine and their two children in a huge farm in the Cotswolds, near Highgrove House, the country home of the Prince of Wales.

From there, he commuted to his office on an industrial estate outside Oxford by Porsche – or one of his other cars which also include an Audi – at the crack of dawn each morning.

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Enviably, Chez Woodford boasts a huge equestrian complex for their horses: his hobby is amateur three-day eventing.His enthusiasm for all things horsey was acquired when he took up with Madelaine, 47, his former secretary who became the second Mrs Woodford. He and his first wife, Jo, did not have children.

The Woodfords also have a second luxury home on the Devon coast.

The couple paid cash for the £6.35million six-bedroom property two years ago.

Quite a lifestyle for a man who has always felt himself to be an outsider among the Eton and Oxbridge-educated fund management types who infest the City. He is a grammar school boy from Berkshire from a relatively modest background, who studied agricultural economics at Exeter University.

He lives with his blonde wife Madelaine and their two children in a huge farm in the Cotswolds, near Highgrove House, the country home of the Prince of Wales. The Woodfords also have a second luxury home on the Devon coast (pictured centre)

He lives with his blonde wife Madelaine and their two children in a huge farm in the Cotswolds, near Highgrove House, the country home of the Prince of Wales. The Woodfords also have a second luxury home on the Devon coast (pictured centre)

His father Victor printed postcards for a living.

In happier times, that did not prevent Woodford from being what seemed like a stock-picking genius.

He spent most of his career at fund giant Invesco, where his stellar track record meant that when he left in 2014 to set up his own firm, he raised £1.7billion in just a fortnight.

Those close to him say the move to shut down his main fund came as something of a surprise, which is an indication, perhaps of wilful blindness to the level of anger aimed at him.

Yet the last time I saw Woodford, he claimed that when he looks at himself in the mirror in the morning he doesn’t see an investment legend, but all his human frailties.

With his business and his reputation in ruins, he certainly has a lot to reflect upon today.

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