UK

Countrywide founder says the company can be broken up for sale

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Harry Hill has said that the UK’s largest estate agent can be broken up and sold in individual parts

The legendary founder of Countrywide, Harry Hill, has said that that the UK’s largest estate agent could be broken up in any sale. Referring to the company as distressed, he said that he believed that the company could be worth less than the sum of its parts. He believes that it will be difficult to recruit a new boss for the company. Hill also criticised the acting executive chairman of the company for lack of experience in the property sector.

He said that, at present, Paul Creffield is the only surviving member of the management team he assembled to run Countrywide.

Hill said that Countrywide’s loss of market share is self-evident, as is the rapidly revolving executive door, but beyond those public events, he has no greater insight than anyone else. He added that his personal opinion is however, for what it is worth, that the business would now almost certainly be worth more broken up and sold in individual parts than the current stock market capitalisation and debt. Countrywide however continues to have two very wealthy major shareholders who themselves will have far greater expertise than him in resolving distressed company situations and he was sure that they monitor the situation on almost a daily basis.

He criticised former Countrywide CEO Alison Platt, saying that she was wrong in believing estate agency was a form of retail. He said people with property experience had been replaced by those from retail backgrounds, while the non-executive chair, Peter Long, had taken on an executive role pending the appointment of a new CEO. However, he warned that finding a new CEO of sufficient calibre will be very difficult.

Platt resigned last month. Another recent departure has been that of Margaret Longden, who previously headed up the Countrywide lettings business jointly with John Hards.

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