A statement this morning from Countrywide's board says both its executive chairman and its group managing director are leaving the company.
It has also rejected a proposal put forward by one of its shareholders - Alchemy Partners, a private equity company - for a £90m investment in the company.
It says it is pursuing other options for the company including a possible revised Alchemy offer; although not said explicitly, options are likely to include a high profile approach by Connells Group, wanting to buy the company at a cash price of 250p per share.
The Countrywide statement issued at 7am says: “Countrywide … announces today that Peter Long has stepped down from his role as Executive Chairman and has retired as a director of the Company with immediate effect. In addition, Countrywide is pleased to announce the appointment of Philip Bowcock as interim CEO with immediate effect.
“Mr Bowcock was previously CEO of William Hill plc, overseeing a business with significant high street presence, leading it through a retail and digital transition. Mr Bowcock will lead the discussions with major shareholders towards stabilising the Company's capital structure, and discussions with Alchemy Partners and Connells in relation to their proposals.
“Further, Paul Creffield, Group Managing Director, has indicated his intention to retire from the Company with effect from 24 November 2021. Mr Creffield will retire as a director at the end of March 2021, following which he will remain available for the remainder of his notice period in order to support a smooth transition process.”
Both Long and Creffield have in the past been at the centre of a controversial bonus plan - vetoed by shareholders - so there will be interest in the terms under which they leave Countrywide. The company this morning says on this issue: "The remuneration details relating to Peter Long and Paul Creffield required to be made available under Section 430(2B) of the Companies Act 2006 will be published on the Countrywide website in due course."
The statement today goes on to say that Bowcock's appointment as interim chief executive is "subject to approval by the Financial Conduct Authority, and this process is underway."
A search is now underway to find a new independent chair of the company to succeed Long.
Meanwhile in his very brief farewell statement, Peter Long says: "This business has many underlying strengths and a terrific group of people. It was always my intention to step back when we found the right figure to take Countrywide forward, and Philip [Bowcock] is that person. The business is in good hands."
David Watson - who is taking over as acting non-executive chairman until a successor to Long is recruited, says: "Peter has worked tirelessly to secure the future of Countrywide. He has done the company a great service in bringing our shareholders to the table for constructive talks. This is a fundamentally sound business with a bright future. Philip's wealth of experience in leading large, listed companies will be hugely valuable as we navigate the near-term challenge of recapitalising the business and position it for long-term success."
And Paul Creffield, who leaves the troubled company next year, adds: "Philip's experience in leading a people business with significant high street presence will complement the deep industry experience of our talented teams well. This business has demonstrated its quality with strong trading through a difficult year. I'm delighted to welcome Philip to Countrywide and look forward to working with him and supporting him through this transition."
And finally, in yet anoither quote in this morning's statement, interim CEO Philip Bowcock comments: "Countrywide is a strong business that has been held back by its debt burden. It has the largest estate agency network in the UK, a portfolio of well-known and trusted brands, and great people with significant real estate experience. I look forward to working with the team at Countrywide and our shareholders to unlock the long-term value of the Company's underlying resilience for all our stakeholders."