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Foxtons chairman quits, blaming Brexit and Covid for poor performance

Foxtons’ chairman and longest-serving board member is to stand down at the end of this year at the latest, after a turbulent reign. 

Ian Barlow, 67, has been the firm’s chairman for eight years despite not being a career estate agent. His reign has been marked by huge controversy surrounding the firm.

Its share price was around 120p five years ago and now languishes at around 60p, while Dexters and other agents have eaten into what used to be a strong London market share for Foxtons. 

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In recent years there have been shareholder revolts over executive pay and the adverse publicity of the company claiming £4.4m in taxpayers’ furlough payments - and rejecting calls to pay it back - while around the same time embarking on the acquisition of four lettings books or agencies, costing almost £19m in total.

Barlow’s statement regarding his standing down ignores these issues and instead he blames Brexit and Coronavirus for the company’s recent performance.

“It has been a privilege to have served on the Board and more recently as chairman for the past eight years,” he says.

“Foxtons is an excellent company with a strong brand, great people, leading industry technology and deep branch coverage across London.

“A series of challenges to the London property market since the Brexit referendum, compounded more recently by the pandemic, have impaired our recent trading performance.

“But the business has huge potential, and I am confident that the refreshed growth strategy, agreed by the board last year and set out in the Capital Markets Day presentation in June, will result in a substantial rebound in performance.

“There are already signs of this with adjusted operating profit for the first half of the year expected to be significantly ahead of both 2020 and 2019.”

Last month the Capital Markets Day was used as an opportunity to confirm that Foxtons would create hybrid-style ‘virtual branches’ in as many as 15 UK cities outside London, plus commuter areas of south east England. The company will also expand its involvement with the sale of new build properties.

Barlow secured an MA in engineering science from Cambridge and then became a chartered accountant and chartered tax advisor, including working for a time as a senior partner at the consultancy KPMG.

He is also chairman of The Racecourse Association.

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