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Expert Agent founder says sale to ZPG ‘came as a complete surprise’ to him

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.”

2 Comments

  1. AgentV

    Although I was really disappointed when this happened I like to believe Mike in what he says. After all he sent out an email late last year stating how EA was for the ‘independent agent’ and asking for suggestions for new products. I got as far as having a discussion with them about a major ‘plug in’ idea we have developed that saves us 15 to 20 man hours of time a week. Guess we’ll have to take that idea elsewhere now.

    Above all else I would like to see it ‘written into a contract’ supplied to us that any client information data we have recorded on expert agent in the past, or will do so from now on, will be confidential to us and will not be used by Zoopla to sell to YOPA or the like for targeting emails.

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  2. DeepPurple89

    I heard about that YOPA mailshot from someone else. Surely, though, it was an APPLICANT mailout – sent to applicants that have registered on Zoopla. So we can get upset about and argue the morality but that’s Zoopla’s own data and they can use it as they see fit. They’ve presumably sent an email to that data on behalf of YOPA in the same way they send emails for home improvements. Of course, they could have cross-referenced the applicant data with the full addresses of properties uploaded by all of us thereby giving YOPA a more targeted list – properties currently on the market with all of us but I doubt it. I’ll bet the only filtering was on applicants looking at prices sufficiently high to suggest they are making a second or third time buy and so probably have a property to sell. Maybe it is even simpler than that.. does Zoopla ask applicants for their status when they regster? I assume any agent can buy a mailshot like this from Zoopla if their pockets are deep enough. I guess Zoopla will try to do national deals because it saves lots of work carving the data up but maybe we can ask them for something similar at local level. Would we feel the same about a Connells, Countrywide or Knight Frank mailshot? But, the point is, even if they can now illegally peep at it via the software companies they own, they can’t use OUR private data – our applicants, vendors. landlords, tenants etc unless the client agrees and we agree. The penalties for this and the stock market fallout would be huge, wouldn’t it?

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