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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Foxtons appoints former Hamptons man following 'investor pressure'

Following speculation overnight, Foxtons - one of London's leading and most high-profile agencies - has this morning announced the appointment of Nigel Rich CBE as Chairman with immediate effect from October 1 2021.

The appointment comes after the announcement of current Chairman Ian Barlow’s retirement. Barlow will step down as Chairman and as a Director on October 1 2021 when Rich officially joins the Board.

Sky News reported last night that Rich, a former chairman of Hamptons International and warehouse operator Segro, was to take the helm at Foxtons, the famously combative London-focused estate agent which was recently described by its former boss as too aggressive and nasty.

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The move followed a period of pressure from its biggest investors, Sky News claimed.

Rich's previous experience in the property sector with Hamptons Interational and beyond means his appointment is likely to be well-received by the City, Sky News said.

While the firm's performance has got steadily better this year, it has endured a tricky period during the pandemic, with fat cat controversy and criticism over its inability to pay back the furlough money it took from the government despite an improving performance.

Back in June, Hosking Partners, which holds an 11% stake in the agency, urged "radical board-level change" at the company.

The firm, which hasn't been afraid to ruffle feathers with a different approach in the past, experienced its best first-half trading figures since 2016 despite the criticism it faced, in part fuelled by purchasers rushing to beat the end of the initial stamp duty holiday deadline.

“Nigel is an excellent appointment and I am delighted we have secured someone with his capability and experience. It has, over the past eight years, been a great privilege to serve on the Board of Foxtons, a prominent London business with a great future. Nigel has much to offer the Board and the broader group and I wish him every success,” Barlow, the departing Chairman, said. 

Alan Giles, senior independent director at the firm, added: “The Nomination Committee conducted a thorough and extensive search which decisively concluded that Nigel Rich was the outstanding candidate. He has extensive boardroom experience as a Chairman, with listed companies and in the estate agency sector. This will be invaluable as we seek to build on recent business momentum and deliver significant shareholder value in the coming years. On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank Ian for his dedicated service and unstinting commitment to the business.”

Rich himself said: “I am delighted to take on the Chairmanship of Foxtons. As the UK, including London, recovers from the economic effects of the pandemic, Foxtons is well-placed to take advantage of the resurgent activity in the residential market. I look forward to working with the management team to accelerate Foxtons’ recovery and returns to shareholders.”

Rich, a qualified Chartered Accountant, has also served as Chairman at CP Ships Limited and Xchanging plc, and has held numerous non-executive director positions at companies including Granada Group, ITV and Harvey Nichols Group. According to an offical statement from Foxtons this morning, he will be paid £150,000 per year, of which £50,000 will be paid in shares at the prevailing market price.

Catalist, a 'city investment activist firm', which bought a 2% stake in Foxtons in April 2021, issued a comment following the appointment of Rich.

Josh Ponniah, Partner at Catalist, said: “The Board has responded to issues raised by shareholders. Nigel Rich is well known to Catalist, having previously worked together with Robin Paterson for 8 years as Chairman of Hamptons. Nigel brings the specific industry expertise and turnaround experience that Catalist believes is necessary to reverse the decline in performance over the past 5 years. We look forward to working with Nigel and the Board to accelerate this recovery.”

The appointment follows a busy year for Foxtons, which has continued to be in the headlines on a regular basis.

"Like many London-listed companies, it tapped shareholders for fresh capital after warning of a collapse in revenues after the onset of the pandemic," the Sky News report said. "It also took furlough funds from the government during the period when its branches were closed."

According to Sky, shares in Foxtons closed on Thursday at 52.2p, giving the company a market capitalisation of £174 million. 

In March this year, Foxtons bought rival London-focused estate agency Douglas & Gordon for £14.25 million, but the D&G business is contining to be run as a separate brand and with the existing management team remaining in place.

It's also considered plans for national expansion via virtual branches and the selling of its mortgage business as it aims to restructure after the pandemic.

Most recently, former boss Peter Rollings gave a fascinating insight on new podcast with eXp agents Scott Gunn and Ben Moore about what it was like to work for Foxtons when it was at its most aggressive in the London market, saying he eventually left because it had zero empathy.

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