The circus surrounding the fate of online agency Emoov has taken an unexpected turn.
Yesterday Sky News revealed that the company was on the verge of calling in administrators - a formal decision may be made today, confirming the move.
Now Estate Agent Today can reveal that the agency’s controversial chief executive, Russell Quirk, has held discussions about setting up a public relations company with the aim of representing property industry clients.
Estate Agent Today understands that he has been in talks with at least three other individuals - some having extensive property PR experience - with a view to setting up a company. EAT has put the speculation to Russell Quirk, who has so far declined to comment.
The decision to consider creating a PR firm is thought to have been made - ironically, in retrospect - when Quirk talked with PRs about a possible floatation of Emoov in the late spring and summer. It is thought that Quirk was unimpressed with some of the companies he spoke with, and considered that an opportunity existed for a new PR firm.
Yesterday we reported that Quirk had set up a company in September in his own name; he is now also reported to have set up another company last month, called Properganda.
Although Emoov has spent substantial sums on mainstream advertising - most recently on its Emoovment campaign - it has spent little on PR compared to other online agencies.
Purplebricks, for example, has spent very large sums on independent PR firms such as Instinctif Partners; easyProperty, when it was set up, also used international PR firms to try to establish its brand; Yopa now has two different PR firms representing its activities.
Emoov, however, has instead usually preferred to rely on a small in-house team and on Quirk’s own extensive media profile.
Even during the current financial crisis at Emoov - which is still looking for a buyer after failing to attract investment following its acquisition of online agencies Tepilo and Urban - Quirk has participated in a TalkRadio programme about Brexit, on a Property Show podcast about housing, and on Julia Hartley-Brewer’s TalkRadio breakfast show.
During the same period of time he has been extensively quoted in both the property and mainstream press on issues generated by Emoov’s own in-house PR people - such as gazumping - as well as commenting on many different aspects of the housing market.
On top of that, Quirk has also been quoted - at least occasionally - on Emoov’s own fate, which appears to be hanging in the balance in the absence of finding a purchaser.
Sky News says Emoov may today confirm that it has appointed James Cowper Kreston, an accounting firm, to act as administrators.
Quoting unnamed sources, Sky says a pre-pack administration option - allowing a buyer to acquire some of the firm’s assets without having to carry the burden of its debts - could be the option chosen by Quirk and his advisers.
Sky suggests there was limited interest in buying the company as it stood, with what it calls “seven figure losses” for existing investors.