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Woodford-backed Voke races to avoid going up in smoke

Written by on 05/11/2020

A nicotine inhaler backed by the former star fund manager Neil Woodford is scrambling to raise millions of pounds in fresh funding to secure its future.

Sky News has learnt that Kind Consumer, which manufactures products under the Voke brand, is trying to secure funding in a bid to relaunch its range in 2022.

The company, which has struck partnerships with British American Tobacco and counts the former Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy among its backers, believes it has an opportunity to take advantage of growing alarm about the risks of vaping.

Disgraced fund manager Neil Woodford.
Image: The company is backed by the former star fund manager Neil Woodford

Voke’s products have been endorsed by Public Health England as a safer alternative to smoking, and have been used in pilot programmes launched by several NHS trusts.

The company has raised more than £140m since it was set up, including millions of pounds from Mr Woodford’s Woodford Investment Management – part of which is now managed by the fund management giant Schroders.

Sources said Kind Consumer had warned stakeholders in recent months that its funding position was “critical”, and that it was looking to raise £36m to deliver a revised business plan during the next three years.

A chunk of that money is required in the short term, they added.

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Former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy
Image: Former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy is also among the company’s backers

Kind Consumer is chaired by John Clarke, a former GlaxoSmithKline executive, and is run by Alan Sutherland, who previously worked for Dyson and Procter & Gamble.

Asked whether the company was on the verge of collapse, Mr Sutherland said in an email: “The company does not plan to go into administration.

“As part of a restructuring plan we are in the process of raising funds to restructure the business and are in active dialogue and due diligence with engaged parties which we hope to conclude in the near future.”

 Sky News

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