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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Estate agency chief resigns from Agents' Mutual board

Clive Rook, a representative of regional estate and letting agent Rook Matthews Sayer, has resigned from the board of Agents’ Mutual, the parent company behind challenger portal OnTheMarket.

Ian Springett, chief executive of OnTheMarket, told Estate Agent Today that having helped guide Agents' Mutual through the development and launch phases, rook was stepping down as expected from his non-executive director role. 

“He did not seek re-election because he wishes to be able to focus more time on his highly successful estate agency business in the north east” said Springett.

Rook Matthews Sayer is a well known estate and letting agency in the north east of England with 17 branches at Alnwick, Amble, Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth, Fenham, Forest Hall, Gosforth, Heaton, Hexham, Jesmond, Morpeth, Ponteland, Ryton, West Denton and Whitley Bay.

Rook became a director in March 2014 amidst publicity that, prior to his joining the board, Agents’ Mutual was predominantly an upmarket, London-centric body. 

At the time of Rook’s appointment Paul Jarman of Savills, himself a director of Agents’ Mutual, said: “His appointment adds to the diversity of representation and perspectives around the board table and further reinforces our commitment to create a fully national portal serving all agents in the UK residential property markets.”

"I have very much enjoyed being a part of the Agents' Mutual board and my estate agency firm remains one of its biggest supporters. I take great satisfaction in what has been achieved so far and remain firmly confident about the prospects for the business” Rook said this morning. 

  • Simon Shinerock

    The Rook flys the nest - couldn't resist that

  • Kelly Evans

    Don't give up the day job, Simon! :)

  • Kelly Evans

    Is this news? Yes, he's resigned from the board but his company are still part of OTM and still advertising it prominently. There is no knowing why he's quit, just speculation and conjecture.

  • Rob  Davies

    Of course it's news, Kelly. Given OTM's recent struggles, how can one of Agents' Mutual board resigning not be major news? It might suggest, might it not, that all is not well at AM Towers.

  • Daniel Roder

    Is this the beginning of the end for OTM?

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    • R M
    • 16 June 2015 09:45 AM

    @Simon EAT needs the ability to reply to posts. I have to say what with yesterday and today the editorial team have got the comment worthy stories!

  • Lyn Burgoyne

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    Why does everyone jump the gun when it comes to OTM? He could have resigned for a multitude of reasons. Calm down fantasists.

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    The story doesn't say WHY HE LEFT????????

    Maybe its because the CMA's observations are getting closer to becoming a full cartel investigation. 17 offices could be a heavy fine

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    When the board and confidence starts leaving, the cracks start showing.

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    • R M
    • 16 June 2015 10:16 AM

    @Daniel, there are some fervent AM supporters who are a bit disgruntled with OTM but that is part of the learning process, the proud parent, beautiful baby phase is over and the thing is now cutting its teeth and squawking through the night. The parents can see what forthright Aunt Freda was getting at when she said the child looked a bit like a monkey!

    This is the 4th time agents have done their own portal and there is a common characteristic that links them all. There is nothing beginning of the end about this it is merely an indication that change is necessary. There is a unique domain knowledge required to take AM and OTM forward. Only 3 or 4 people have the understanding of what is needed to compete in portal wars, of that micro group only 2 people have the mindset to help. I am not saying who the other bloke is.

  • Jon  Tarrey

    @Lyn Burgoyne, you're leaving us on tenterhooks here.

  • Jon  Tarrey

    Yes, industry Expert, things not looking too good for OTM. The cracks are starting to appear, I'm sure the in-fighting will begin soon. Where's Mr Springett to tell us all how brilliantly OTM is really doing, and how much market share they are taking away from Zoopla? He's gone suspiciously quiet recently.

  • Simon Shinerock

    Sorry about not being able to reply to posts, the person responsible has been flogged and we hope to have the feature added back soon

  • Rob  Davies

    Very diplomatic, Hannah, but OTM are falling apart at the seams much quicker than even I predicted. The fact AM have made no response to this news speaks volumes.

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    • R M
    • 16 June 2015 11:28 AM

    It isn't falling apart, in tech terms it is agile development, get some things, right get some things wrong, change things.

  • Nigel Poole

    If there is no comment from AM how about a comment from Mr Rook?

  • Anna  Dickson

    @Nigel Poole - Here's Rook's comment from above - "I have very much enjoyed being a part of the Agents' Mutual board and my estate agency firm remains one of its biggest supporters. I take great satisfaction in what has been achieved so far and remain firmly confident about the prospects for the business”

    This doesn't really give much away, or sound particularly convincing though does it?

    Who knows what the future will hold for AM but the cracks are certainly beginning to show, and at a frequent rate.

  • Tom  Harrington

    @Anna Dickson Very true - that comment at the end from Rook certainly wouldn't fill me with confidence if i were a part of OTM. I would love to discover the exact reasons behind his resignation.

  • Algarve  Investor

    @Robert May - I don't think anyone is saying the site is falling apart. I've said before it's a perfectly good website - it's relatively stylish, functional and user-friendly - but it doesn't offer anything different to Zoopla and Rightmove. It's quick and easy to use, but so are RM and Z - and they both have more properties. Zoopla, I would argue, is the most user-friendly to a new visitor, but RM has far more options to narrow the search and other little extras that are very useful to buyers/renters.

    Nothing against OTM from a tech point of view, and you can't really argue with their advertising drive, but they just haven't offered anything different to what is already in place. Some agents might benefit, other won't. But the most important person in all this - the consumer - doesn't care how much RM and Z charge agents. They just want their property sold/tenanted.

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    Sorry, typo.

    The statements from Springett and Rook are unconvincing both in the wording, and the fact that (from a quick look at Companies House) this actually happened in May. If this was a standard, run of the mill non-exec falling away, OTM would have announced as such and thanked Clive for his time and input to date. They didn't do that and are now reacting on the back foot and reinforcing the negative assumptions.

    Even the relatively hardened supporters of AM are starting to raise their eyebrows when I mention it to them nowadays - for me this is just another disillusioned supporter wanting to distance themselves from running of the project. The problem that Clive has is that as one of the founding board members he will not be able to distance himself.

    No-one will be under any illusion that the reason people join a board as non-exec is to be associated with success. Only conflicts of interest, ill health or other personal circumstances really justify removal so soon into a business's life. Given the lack of statement around why Clive has left, we can only assume he does not like what he sees at AM.

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    OTM will certainly fail if the subscribing agents do not get their act together and REALLY advertise their membership properly - just look at the newspapers - one has to practically use a magnifying glass to pick out the OTM logo! I have been advocating the absolute necessity of a large presence on every part of their advertising since the inception. Time is running out. 


  • Fake Agent

    Well said, Eileen. This doesn't look good for OTM, especially if hardened, dyed-in-the-wool OTM supporters are starting to rail against them. Certainly doesn't bode well if a founding member has resigned - something must have gone on. AM should really come out and give a response.

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    One of my comps just sent me a statement from OTM, basically repeating the statements above.

    They have dealt with PR pretty well, but this is a shambles. Caught on the back foot with a pretty negative story.

    The mood is changing and I am SO glad we stuck out of it...

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    • R M
    • 16 June 2015 12:45 PM

    @Algarve Investor I was replying to Rob Davies who did say that. I am on record as saying AM should have tacked off into clean air and sailed their own race. If you follow the leaders you end up where they end up only you are still at the back. I can't hide the fact I have built what should have been built and can now demonstrate a solid new way od searching for property.

  • Tim Gorgulu

    This doesn't look great for OTM and I fear we are not being given the whole picture. I agree with the more general points made below the line that their product didn't offer enough of an alternative, it was merely a copycat version of RM and Z. Plenty of agents were never going to take the risk of coming off the major portals, which made the one other portal rule totally redundant.

    Will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few weeks. I think AM/OTM have some questions to answer, and these broad, generic statements they're coming out with don't really answer those questions.

  • Algarve  Investor

    You've hit the nail on the head, Ray. If they don't act soon, I can't see them recovering. I can only envisage a slow decline.

  • Rookie Landlord

    Lots of people jumping the gun here and revelling in OTM's apparent demise. Do you all know something the rest of us don't? You all seem to have insider information on the inner workings of the AM machine.

    We have no idea why Rook resigned. There could be any number of reasons. It doesn't automatically mean he's dissatisfied with the direction OTM is heading in. From what we heard a few weeks ago, OTM were doing pretty well and seriously denting Zoopla, who kept hitting back with playground-level taunts. Now, suddenly, because a board member's left and because about 400 small-time landlords haven't heard of them, all the "experts" here are saying OTM is finished. I think quite a few people are going to be made to look very silly.

  • Simon Shinerock

    OTM is a regressive business model, it's the kind of model that used to exist prior to the Internet and operates still in some countries. However by its very nature, a regressive model is extremely difficult to implement without coercion or regulation. Cab drivers are a case in point, they are user great threat from the likes of Uber and they gave tried to fight back but in the end, unless they are rescued by Boris, unlikely, their days of monopolising expensive transport in London are numbered. The landscape of estate agency has already changed, we can't go back

  • Simon Shinerock

    Note, add back correction feature!

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    This was announced weeks ago in fact on the 21st of May when the details of the annual Agents Mutual AGM was announced. All directors have to put themselves forward for re election. Does anyone think that directors will continue in their role ad infinitum?! It was probably only ever going to be for one year for Mr Rook and I suspect the other directors will all step down at some point too.

  • Rob  Davies

    @Paul House - to be replaced by? I get that people might step down after a certain period of time, but if they never get replaced then who is in charge of running things? If, as you say, you expect them all to step down at some point, what will happen to Agents' Mutual and OTM?

    It seems like a lot of fuzzy thinking and a make it up as we go along mentality. Serious question: do you think OTM is living up to expectations or do you think it is in trouble? The superior, we know best attitude of AM might come back to bite them quite hard in the next 6-12 months.

  • Neil Briggs

    I think people are getting a tad carried away. I don't think a resignation, which seems to have happened weeks ago and with no ulterior motive, means people should be saying bye bye to OTM for good. As predicted, they've not really made inroads into the market share of the big two. They've made RM much, much stronger and Zoopla, after initially being dented, seem to have fought back pretty well.

    I think we need to remember that outside of the property world not many would have been aware of the portal debate. Most people will have heard of RM and Z, because they've been around for years and have both built very successful brands. OTM were never going to match that overnight. It will takes years, it more than likely won't happen.

    If we're being honest, how many people pay much attention to adverts these days? It's all catch-up TV - where people fast-forward through the ads, Netflix and other online streaming services. People either don't watch or don't pay much attention to TV ads, no matter how many millions are ploughed into them. The world is moving on, I don't think TV ads hold that much sway anymore.

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    @RobDavies
    "to be replaced by?"...Someone else who wants to be elected to the board.
    " I get that people might step down after a certain period of time, but if they never get replaced then who is in charge of running things?"....The person who gets elected to replace them.
    "If, as you say, you expect them all to step down at some point, what will happen to Agents' Mutual and OTM?"...It will be run by the people replacing the board members such as Ed Mead, Robert Bartlett and so on as well as the CEO and company employees.

    "Serious question: do you think OTM is living up to expectations or do you think it is in trouble?"I'm happy with my investment and I will never go back to Zoopla, I don't need them and nor do my clients.

    I've got to say that i'm amazed by the knee jerk reaction from some of the posters on this. People stepping down from a board at the company AGM is pretty standard stuff.

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    I am with Paul, This is pretty standard stuff and all the usual critics are trying to make something out of nothing. Can I suggest that all the above critics post every time one of their staff resigns because their businesses are obviously falling apart at the seams. That will be as much newsworthy as this story.

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    Agreed with Ashley and Paul. The phrase 'mountain out of a molehill' springs to mind. It's easy to fit information to your own agenda...

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    I support the concept of OTM and agree that TV ads are not as effective as they used to be. What I cannot understand is this: Subscribers to OTM have High Street offices with much display space so they have great faith in office format. Why are they not shouting out OTM with big adverts within this display space (and in their newspaper ads and their own websites)?

  • Jon  Tarrey

    @Ashley Gray - explain how this is a mountain out of a molehill or something being made out of nothing. If a board member left Zoopla or RM, do you not think that would cause a bit of a stir? This sort of thing might be commonplace, but given Rook's association as a founding member of OTM - who by all accounts are struggling a wee bit at the moment, to put it lightly - this is newsworthy. If they came out and said exactly why he had resigned, we wouldn't be having this issue. But, as usual, it's all clouded in secrecy, which doesn't help OTM's cause.

    I think the people trying to make this into a non-issue are trying to deflect attention away from the real story here - that OTM is falling apart bit by bit.

  • Simon Shinerock

    @Ray Evans for the same reason that water doesn't run uphill

  • Jon  Tarrey

    Ray, I'd argue they very much are. Maybe it's just the ones I've seen, but if it's an OTM office you soon know about it. They're not backwards in going forwards about it. There is just not enough agencies willing to back them, content as they are with RM and Zoopla or the many other portals that are out there. Which agency wants to be restricted to just two portals, one of which must be OTM? It was a ridiculous idea.

    We always hear that it's agents, not portals, who really sell houses. But that task is made a hell of a lot harder if you don't have a very visible online presence.

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