An insider in a senior position in Humberts says the weekend announcement that it was in talks with proposed administrators to find a buyer had been “on the cards for years”.
The individual, who contacted Estate Agent Today but did not want to be named, blamed what he called “a random, scattergun way of developing the firm” since it split from Chestertons in 2014.
The company - which is 176 years old and first called in administrators a decade ago - has made a series of seemingly unconnected policy initiatives in recent years including franchising at least one office, having some staff work with another agency brand, opening a prime central London branch - to the shock of some employees of the company who saw it as a rural agency - as well as embarking on a new homes division.
There was also what Humberts called the ‘managed transition’ of some staff from its own offices to those of Carter Jonas, which last year prompted significant industry speculation that Humberts was in trouble.
A statement over the weekend released by Ian Westerling, managing director of the firm, blamed “market conditions and pressures on the industry as whole” and suggested that the company was in talks with proposed administrators “with a view to finding a buyer for the profitable parts of the business.”
Those talks are continuing but Westerling also says: “In the meantime, we are making some immediate cost saving measures that will sadly result in some redundancies. We, of course, regret having to do this but we are working hard to secure the future for as many of our employees as we can.”
Chestertons merged with Humberts in 2009 after both companies were reported to have had individual financial difficulties; they demerged in early 2014 with the two separate businesses creating limited companies under the Chesterton Global Ltd umbrella.
Since that time a flurry of policy announcements - not necessarily consistent with each other - have come from Humberts:
July 2014: Humberts sells its entire regional lettings portfolio to Hamptons International;
July 2014: new Humberts logo unveiled following its split with Chestertons, launched at the CLA Game Fair to emphasise the agency’s rural activities;
March 2016 - ‘training academy’ launched to nurture staff;
June 2016 - ‘personal assistant’ service launched for older buyers in a bid to woo retirement new-build clients;
November 2016 - firm announces it’s going to franchise future offices north of London (“We have ambitious expansion plans over the next five years and developing a wider franchised office network is part of this three pronged strategy” said Ian Westerling);
January 2017 - Humberts launches waterfront department;
March 2017 - firm returns to lettings three years after selling portfolio to Hamptons;
April 2017 - David Adams (ex-Hamptons, ex-John Taylor) recruited to head Humberts’ first prime central London office;
Summer 2017 - some Humberts staff join Carter Jonas as part of a ‘managed transition’ to create ‘partnered activities’ between the two firms;
July 2017 - announced commercial property veteran Peter Goldsmith as new company chairman, with new investment from Gulf states;
August 2017 - online service for landlords launched with suggestion from company that it could be extended to sales too;
January 2018 - senior internal promotions to beef up franchising and sales;
February 2018 - ‘regional hubs’ set up to handle new homes sales;
April 2018 - redundancies revealed and talks with administrators held.