Beleaguered fund manager Neil Woodford, one of the early champions of Purplebricks, has slashed his stake in the company from 28.9 per cent to 23.9 per cent.
The reduction in shares has bagged Woodford about £16m in his quest to gather money to help bail out his other ailing investments; meanwhile, this means that the biggest stake in Purplebricks is now held by the digital media arm of German publishing firm Axel Springer.
The Springer empire now owns 26.6 per cent of the hybrid agency.
Axel Springer - which owns titles as diverse as Rolling Stone and Insider Business - this week purchased over 43 million shares in Purplebricks; this was roughly the amount sold by the agency’s founders Michael and Kenny Bruce, and Michael’s wife Isobel.
There’s a further twist in the saga this morning: the Daily Mail is reporting that it has been told that Axel Springer is “open to opportunities” to buy more even shares in Purplebricks.
If this came to pass it could mean the agency would be taken over by Axel Springer and be subject to that company’s long-term investment decisions.
The Mail believes this could involve taking it off the London Stock Exchange’s junior AIM market, where it has had a volatile existence since floating in late 2015.
Yesterday, Purplebricks’ share price closed at 109.4p, some 3.8 per cent up on the opening price; however, that is still 23 per cent down on the past month and 74 per cent down on the figure this time in 2017.
Neil Woodford suspended dealing in his Woodford Equity Income Fund on Monday; this is not the fund that invests in Purplebricks, but in a bid to shore up this fund Woodford is believed to be attempting to raise money from elsewhere, hence the selling of some shares in Purplebricks yesterday.
Woodford yesterday evening had another serious blow with news that the wealth management group St James's Place dropped him as a manager of its huge £3.5 billion fund.
This will heighten pressure on Woodford to divest himself of investments producing low or negative returns. Only this week a BBC correspondent cited Purplebricks as a “dog” - slang for a poor investment choice.