The legendary founder of Countrywide, Harry Hill, says that the UK’s largest estate agent could be broken up in any sale. He also believes it will be difficult to recruit a new Countrywide boss, and has criticised the acting executive chairman as having no property experience.
Hill told EYE yesterday that he believes Countrywide – which he referred to as a distressed company – could be worth less than the sum of its parts.
He said that only one member of the management team he assembled to run Countrywide still survives, naming Paul Creffield.
Hill said: “[Countrywide's] loss of market share is self evident, as is the rapidly revolving executive door-but beyond those public events, I have no greater insight than anyone else.
“My personal opinion is however, for what it is worth, that the business would now almost certainly be worth more broken up and sold in individual parts than the current stock market capitalisation and debt.
“Countrywide however continues to have two very wealthy major shareholders who themselves will have far greater expertise than me in resolving distressed company situations and I am sure that they monitor the situation on almost a daily basis.”
Criticising former Countrywide CEO Alison Platt, Hill said she was wrong in believing estate agency was a form of retail. He said people with property experience had been replaced by those from retail backgrounds, while the non-executive chair, Peter Long, had taken on an executive role pending the appointment of a new CEO.
However, he warned that finding a new CEO of sufficient calibre would be very difficult.
Platt resigned last month. Another recent departure has been that of Margaret Longden, who previously headed up the Countrywide lettings business jointly with John Hards. There has been no statement.