A multimillionaire hedge fund manager accused of groping a junior investment banker “like an octopus” at his London home while his pregnant wife was away has said he was open to sleeping with the “attractive” younger woman, but denied indecently assaulting her.
Crispin Odey, 62, said he was “ashamed” and “embarrassed” by the incident in summer 1998 at his home in Swan Walk, Chelsea, west London.
But he told Westminster Magistrates’ Court the woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was “exaggerating, massively” in her account of what happened.
Odey, who was 39 at the time, while the woman was in her mid-20s, is alleged to have put his hand down her shirt to touch her breast and to have put his hand up her skirt.
Giving evidence in his defence on Thursday, he said he propositioned the woman at a meeting – after she inquired where “this is going to end” – by replying: “If you’re lucky, it might end up in the bed.”
He denies indecent assault.
Speaking from the witness box, Odey said: “I am embarrassed to say if she had gone along with it, I would’ve gone further.”
Asked if he would have “taken the opportunity” to sleep with her that night, Odey replied: “I might have… I don’t know, it didn’t happen.”
Prosecutor Kerry Broome said: “You have to say today that it (the meeting) was a social event, and she knew it was a social event, because otherwise the truth is – and it’s obvious, is it not – that you used your position as subterfuge to get her into an isolated and vulnerable position, and you did it, and while she was there you indecently assaulted her.
“That’s the truth of it, isn’t it?”
Odey replied: “No, it’s not.”
The prosecutor said: “You may regret it now. But in 1998 you took your chances with her because you knew she wouldn’t be believed.”
Odey replied: “No, I did not.”
The two-and-a-half-day trial previously heard that the woman described the alleged assault as “like an octopus experience”.
Odey said he received an email from her in 2013 accusing him of groping her, which he described as “nothing like my own recollection of the evening”.
He told the court he responded, seeking to “conciliate her”.
He said: “It was something I didn’t want to come out. It was deeply embarrassing.”
Odey said he only told his wife, Nichola Pease, who is also a hedge fund manager and has supported him throughout the trial, about the incident in 2017 after the alleged victim went to police amid the #MeToo movement.
Odey was interviewed by police in 2019.
He told defence counsel Crispin Aylett QC the impact of the allegation on him was “horrible”.
He said: “It is a horrible thing, a horrible slur.”
Odey said he invited the woman around because he thought “she could become a friend”.
Ms Broome said: “If you thought she could become a friend, when she said, ‘Where do you see this going?’, why didn’t you say ‘Friendship’?”
Odey replied: “I got the wrong end of the stick.”
The vocal Brexit backer, who is worth about £800 million, according to the Sunday Times Rich List, was briefly married to media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s eldest daughter Prudence in the mid-1980s and has courted controversy over the course of his career through his investment strategies.
Last November, he stepped down as chief executive of Odey Asset Management, the company he founded in 1991, saying he would focus on managing his own funds.
District Judge Nicholas Rimmer has retired to consider the verdict.