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Top industry figure says OTM float 'just makes money for elite agents'

Iain White, the ex-Romans managing director and former Countrywide director, has come out strongly against the demutualisation proposal from Agents’ Mutual - and says it’s part of an agenda to allow the leaders of the company to make money.

White, now one of the founders of the Agency Mentors training business, was involved in the early stages of OnTheMarket action group of dissident OTM agents. These firms were unhappy with the performance of the challenger portal for some months before the controversial float proposal emerged from its parent company.

Now, in an interview with well-known industry consultant Christopher Watkins, White says his personal view is that there is little merit in the majority of smaller OTM member agents voting in favour of the proposal.

White says that while there is substantial information being given by Agents’ Mutual about what would happen if 75 per cent of members agree to the float - the trigger percentage which would put the proposal into action - there is little or nothing being said about what happens if there is a majority No vote, or if the 75 per cent threshold is not met.

He says the demutualisation also goes against the mutual principles and one-member one-vote philosophy behind the initial creation of Agents’ Mutual and OnTheMarket.

“How you can disrupt the portal market by creating a third portal that to all intents and purposes is the same [as Rightmove and Zoopla] is beyond me” says White, who believes agents as a result may have to end up paying into three portals - and committing to OTM for five years, under its current proposal.

White - who in recent weeks says the OnTheMarket Action Group of dissident member agents is taking no collective position on the proposal - also adds that OnTheMarket’s record to date has delivered very different results for its big-brand founding members than for the many smaller agencies that have signed up in good faith.

“The poor little guy has been paying money into something that has failed...There is no man alive who could stand and argue that it’s been a success for the little guys” he claims.

White adds that while he believes OnTheMarket’s key ‘pro-agent’ principles should have meant it succeeded, the core principles were “never honest” in how they were used by leading figures in the portal and its parent company.

“There was an agenda for the elite at the top of the organisation to make themselves money” says White, describing how OTM has performed to date - and he says there is a similar agenda behind the demutualisation proposals.

Of the smaller agents that form the bulk of the membership, White asks: “What are they going to make out of the demutualising? What’s in it for them?”

You can see the full interview below.

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