The founder and chief executive of Expert Agent, whose sale to ZPG was announced this week, has admitted that the deal came as a “complete surprise” to both him and his colleagues.
The admission was made in an email yesterday afternoon to customers, which we have seen.
In it, however, Mike Griffiths also expressed confidence in ZPG as the new owners, assured agents that their data is safe, and that his firm will continue to operate as an independent brand.
Griffiths, managing director of Websky, launched Expert Agent in 2004.
He sold the business to new owners, private equity firm Metropolis International, in 2013, meaning that after that time Expert Agent was no longer his to sell.
While he has had no shares in the business for the last three years, he stayed on to develop and run Expert Agent – said to be the largest of the software suppliers in the industry.
He has in the past made much of the value of independence.
Yesterday afternoon, in an email we have seen Griffiths wrote to customers, some of whom he said had accused him of “selling out”.
In his email, he said that after the news broke on Wednesday morning: “I have had a number of emails from our members – some congratulating us, some accusing me of ‘selling out’ and many asking some very sensible and direct questions. I wanted to write to you to address some of these issues.
“As many of you know, my partners, investors and I sold 100% of Expert Agent to a private equity firm back in 2013. This was a good move as they helped us to continue to develop and grow.
“The team and I remained in place following this sale and we continued to deliver the products and services you have come to expect from us.
“Yesterday’s sale by the private equity firm to ZPG (whilst a complete surprise to my colleagues and me) doesn’t change anything in this regard.
“Actually, with ZPG as our new owners, we are confident that the development will not only continue but investment will be accelerated.”
Griffiths went on to address other points, saying: “Expert Agent will continue to operate as an independent brand and platform.
“Our Frome office and all our staff (including me) are staying with the business.”
He continued: “Your data is safe and secure and will not be used for any purposes other than providing you with the Expert Agent services and will NOT be available to any other parties.
“You will not be forced into taking any other ZPG products. You may be offered new services over time but it will be entirely up to you as to whether you wish to take these up.
“Your feeds to other portals will continue as normal and nothing will change in this regard.”
Griffiths admitted: “Whilst I was initially sceptical about being part of a much larger organisation like ZPG, I can honestly say I have been nothing but impressed about how focused the team at ZPG are about developing the best products and being the best partners for agents.
“I can see some great benefits in this deal for you, our members.
“There are many myths and rumours that swirl in our industry but I can assure you from my interactions with ZPG that they are genuinely agent-focused and I am looking forward to working with them to do lots more with the Expert Agent product to benefit you before I finally hand over the reins, hang up my keyboard, retire and sail off into the sunset in a few years.
“That would be the perfect end to my 30-year career in the estate agency software industry.
“It is ‘business as usual’ for now and I genuinely believe there will be some clear wins for you over time.”