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The battle for Purplebricks – who are the main shareholders?

The apparent battle for the future of beleaguered online agency brand Purplebricks took an interesting turn last week when activist investor and public critic Lecram Holdings increased its shareholding to 5%.

This key milestone means Lecram – the investment vehicle for Adam Smith – could technically now call a general meeting of the company. Smith has been building up his holding in Purplebricks over recent months – a move which has been matched by current chairman Paul Pindar and his family.

Smith has been openly critical of Pindar, urging him to resign earlier this year as the company’s share price has continued to decline drastically, it recorded a poor set of results over the summer and its rapid cash burn has been strongly questioned.


Its former CEO, Vic Darvey, also resigned suddenly in March due to personal circumstances and was replaced by Helena Marston – but her appointment was shrouded in controversy.

The letter from Smith called for Pindar to be replaced by someone with the ‘necessary experience and skills to address urgently the company’s continuing cash burn and operating performance with thin residential estate agency sector’.

The agency, which recently relaunched its controversial ‘commisery’ ad campaign, has seen its share price tumble in recent years as it has been hit by a range of scandals, from failing to register lettings deposits correctly to facing a possible class action over workers’ rights and unfair dismissal. It has also shifted from a self-employed model to a fully-employed model, raised its fees and removed its money back guarantee.

Aside from Paul Pindar and family (5.42%) and Lecram Holdings (5%), the other major shareholders in the company are Hargreaves Lansdown Asset Management (5.61%), Momentum Global Investment Management (6.7%) and JNE Partners (10.96%). By far the biggest shareholder remains German media giant Axel Springer (26.5%), which has more than 81 million ordinary shares in the firm.

Other shareholders include Inflection Point Investments (4.78%), Baillie Gifford & Co (3.7%) and Interactive Investor (3.11%).

Despite its stake in the company, Axel Springer hasn’t offered an opinion in public on the recent performance of Purplebricks, while JNE, Hargreaves Lansdown and Momentum Global have all stayed very quiet as well. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to know where they would stand in any possible struggle between Pindar and Lecram and any issues or motions raised at a potential general meeting.

Things could come to a head again once the formal class action from Contractors for Justice is launched, or if Marston and her team fail to deliver an upturn in results, which could see more pressure placed on Pindar and others at the top of the company.

For now, the major shareholders – in the main - seem to be employing a wait-and-see approach as the company attempts to turn round its ailing fortunes.


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