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Countrywide “may not survive” warns one of its biggest investors

An investment manager who has a 7.8 per cent stake in Countrywide, is warning that the agency group may not survive in its current form.

Jeremy Hosking, who co-founded an investment portfolio management service and has a personal fortune estimated at £385m, has written to Countrywide chairman Peter Long with a radical proposal.

Hosking wants Countrywide to gift 15 per cent of the company’s shares to staff - roughly the equivalent of £600 each - to give them a stake in its future and confidence they would share in any performance improvement.


Hosking, quoted in the Sunday Times, says he wants Long to apply “maximum pressure” on the company’s remuneration committee to act on the proposal.

“We can see huge equity upside if all goes well. However ... we appreciate there are risks the company in its present form may not survive current challenges” Hosking wrote in his letter. 

Countrywide’s long term decline in terms of market share and share price have been extensively chronicled, and have shown little sign of reversal under its current management after a turbulent period led by former chief executive Alison Platt.

Early this year the company admitted that the proposed sale of its commercial arm, Lambert Smith Hampton, had collapsed.

On Friday Countrywide’s share price closed at 115.7p giving it a market valuation of under £38m.

Today’s Sunday Times reports that the company declined to comment on the Jeremy Hosking proposal.

  • Andrew Ireland

    If I were a member of staff and given £600 worth of shares I would sell them straight away before they plummeted.
    Anyway that’s not radical, it’s been done before.
    Break the company up, sell it off. I’ll buy one of its brands and who knows they buy it back off me in ten years hah

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    No redundancies reported... yet.

  • Russell Quirk

    At last someone at Countrywide Plc is at least suggesting *something* in order to lift them out of the deep hole that Peter Long has dug them.

    Jeremy Hosking, a large shareholder in the once great estate agency firm, suggests gifting 15% of the company's share capital to employees. Like start-ups do all the time.

    But that's not nearly enough in strategic terms to save this Titanic of the industry from continuing to stray ever closer to the ice-fields. No, Countrywide need a new senior team, an innovative approach to operations without the mill-stone of 800 branches and a totally renewed attitude toward technology and marketing.

    Some of us are already doing this. For Countrywide it probably is too late but I hope not. I grew up with Bairstow Eves as the main Essex competitor to my family's Quirk and Partners agency business in the 70's and 80's. I respect it greatly as a brand - but it's hard to respect the people that seem intent on killing it.

    Great scoop by Estate Agent Today

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    Weeks from administration? Maybe you could give them some fundraising ideas from the general public, Russell.

    Experienced hand at that with the Emoov debacle.

    Russell Quirk

    Oh, you think the Countrywide and Emoov situations are 'the same'? Bless. No wonder you post anonymously.

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    I suspect their problems lie more with management and the culture they instilled.

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    Clearly not the same Russell, one is long established with a share price once at 400p plus now trading at around 90% of that value - and the other a fledgling company that you saw fit to keep pushing to investors yet went into administration soon after. The strangest thing though is though you seem to constantly pop into these forums and lecture everyone on how to run their business.

  • Rollo Miles

    Not a bad idea from Jeremy Hosking.
    He should clearly get more involved in the daily running of Countrywide.
    The problem with the share idea is that most staff were encouraged a couple of years ago via a salary sacrifice program to buy shares in countrywide.
    For every share you bought you got one free. This was launched when the share price was around £5 a share!
    A lot of long terms employees who believed in what thy were doing opted for this share program and all got burnt and watched
    the share price plummet and all lost money .
    The only hope for countrywide is for the old guard who run the show to step aside and radical change brought forward. The need to reduce to 3 brands , Bairstow Eves - Hamptons - John D Wood and lose 50% of their high street foot print, to change the way their agents are paid and offer less basic but much higher commission, at least 50/50. Them they might have a chance of survival !

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    I think if you look at this in a non emotional way ( a lot of people have a real hatred for the board ) the position of CW now could be argued to be better than it was before Covid19.

    - Record low interest rates

    - Business rates relief

    - 30% of branches still closed (assuming these are the loss making and lowest performing)

    - Reduced pressure from bank to repay loans

    - government relief still offered

    - Business interruption loan available

    All of the above coupled with stamp duty relief leaves me to think the next 6/9 months will be happy days in the C Suite at CW.

    I can’t see this company entering administration in the short term (12 Months)...

    I heard they are starting recruiting again now, if this is true, it’s good to see a national employer getting back on their feet so quickly and providing employment when others are making redundancies. (Of course the majority of people on here won’t be even acknowledge this)


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