Sky News says Emoov is to be sold, just months after the controversial online agency merged with Sarah Beeny's Tepilo and the online lettings platform Urban for some £100m.
Sky - which has a history of well-informed leaks regarding Emoov - says the agency has appointed stockbroker Arden Partners to oversee an auction “amid signs that it is facing a cash squeeze.”
Quirk did not deny the speculation when asked about it this evening by Estate Agent Today. Instead, when asked if he had a comment, he merely said: "I'm afraid not."
Sky says traditional London agency Foxtons - which many believe is itself in a relatively difficult position - has held preliminary talks about a takeover of Emoov although Sky says it’s unclear whether these talks are ongoing.
Following this summer’s Emoov/Tepilo/Urban merger - which Emoov founder and chief executive Russell Quirk suggested was effectively a takeover by his team - the chief investors in the combined business have been former Daily Express owner Richard Desmond and Channel 4's Commercial Growth Fund.
Quirk - an outspoken figure within the industry and once an aggressive defender of online disruption - recently penned a lengthy piece on LinkedIn hinting that online agencies may not be able to break through and achieve the market share he once hoped.
In the piece Quirk said ‘pure’ online and High Street models were now out of date, and likened them to ‘radical left’ and ‘traditional right’ politics - neither being appropriate for the modern world. “The current online model is generally tainted by allegations of there being no incentive to sell given its charging model and a perception that service levels are 'basic'. This latter charge has been levied by High Street agents keen to show that their higher fees are justified in return for a better outcome” said Quirk at the time.
Only days earlier Quirk released what he called a competitive pricing analysis undertaken for Emoov which claimed that his agency sold properties at an average £6,000 more than rival traditional and online firms - a result which may, in retrospect, have been a bid to talk up his company ahead of its sale.
“Scaling us up to number two [in the online league table] made us more investible and our competitors less investible ... and there were an awful lot of synergies between us and Tepilo. ... They didn’t have a complete senior management team, which we did ... They have a very interesting brand and a brand ambassador in Sarah Beeny, and a very interesting shareholder or two” said Quirk at that time.
Shortly after the summer merger of Emoov, Tepilo and Urban, EAT editor Graham Norwood interviewed Russell Quirk at length - you can read that here.