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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Alison Platt leaving Countrywide, staff are told

It is being reported that staff at Countrywide have been told that embattled chief executive Alison Platt is leaving the agency group.

Chairman Peter Long will temporarily take over some of Platt’s responsibilities while Paul Creffield is reported to be taking over as chief operating officer.

Platt's departure, expected to be confirmed in a formal announcement at 7am tomorrow, follows speculation yesterday evening that board members of the troubled company were urging her to go following a profits warning contained in the latest set of poor figures.

Earlier today Countrywide's share price slipped below 100p for the first time, although it closed the day just above the psychologically-important 100p.

Platt arrived at the agency in 2014 from BUPA; within six months early ‘resignations’ of key personnel suggested that fundamental change was afoot.

Bob Scarff, managing director of estate agency, departed after over three decades in agency: the official statement from Countrywide at the time said he intended to pursue his own personal ambitions outside of the group. 

Nick Dunning, group commercial director at Countrywide, also left after seven years at Countrywide, mostly involved in the lettings business. The official statement in early May 2015 merely said he was leaving the company “to pursue other activities.”

Then in came many senior executives with little or no agency background, echoing Platt’s view of agency as a ‘retail’ activity. 

The ‘Managing Director, Retail’ (until her departure last year) was Samantha Tyrer, who joined from Dixons Carphone and pioneered the ill-fated online experiment that Countrywide abandoned last autumn. 

The head of marketing (again, until her departure last year) was Helen Normoyle, from the BBC. Kate Brown - whose departure was announced last week - was the Group HR director recruited from Bupa, where Platt also worked before arriving at Countrywide.

Old agency hands that remained were given unexpected responsibilities. 

For example, an announcement in 2016 said that the company’s respected sales director Andrew Pennells was in future “leading the transformational change agenda as part of the Building Our Future Programme.”

Platt herself surprised at every twist and turn.

Keen on transparency, she told industry journalists and shareholders early in her tenure that she would report on Countrywide’s performance in detail at least every six months - possibly part of her undoing given the attention paid to a series of poor figures produced frequently over recent years.

However, almost exactly two years ago Platt also joined the board of Tesco as a non-executive director including membership of the remuneration committee; later that year she was named on a ‘power list’ as being amongst the 100 most powerful woman in British management.

But there was more consistency - to Platt’s detriment - in Countrywide’s performance, which has declined during her tenure as chief executive.

Back in March 2014 Countrywide’s share price was sailing high at 686.00p; a series of falls meant that by late 2016 the listing was dropped from the FTSE 250 and had fallen below 170.00p. Yesterday, Countrywide closed at 103.00p - its lowest ever closing price.

Financial performance also suffered, most recently displayed through last week’s disastrous figures for the fourth quarter of 2017, which prompted a profits warning. 

Total income in the sales and lettings business for the full 2017 year was expected to be circa £360m, down 14 per cent on 2016, “reflecting a disappointing fourth quarter performance.”

Total Countrywide group income for the full year - including non-agency activity such as financial services - was expected to be circa £672m (2016: £737m), with quarter four income of circa £164m (2016: £179m). 

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