Countrywide this morning confirmed the departure of CEO Alison Platt.
Meanwhile, executive chairman Peter Long who is taking over the running of the company in the interim, wrote to staff, telling of Platt’s resignation, and saying that he and his colleagues will “implement a turnaround plan that will enable us all to be proud to work for the Group”.
His note says: “Unfortunately in our core sales and lettings business we have lost focus. The key priority, therefore, will be to make changes that will result in these important areas restoring Countrywide’s leading market position.”
Long adds in his note that he understands “that this is an unsettling period and there will be some tough decisions to make along the way”. But he says that he has “real confidence in the group and its future . . . with the correct focus we can once again be a winning company”.
The official announcement to the stock exchange this morning said that Platt has resigned and will stand down from the board.
It confirmed details in the EYE story of yesterday evening when we exclusively broke the news, including that Long has stepped up to become executive chairman until a successor is appointed, while Paul Creffield becomes group operations director with immediate respect.
The statement said: “Respected in the industry with extensive experience in both Countrywide and the estate agency market, he will work closely with Peter.
“Paul’s remit will now also include responsibility for the sales and letting division.
“The Board acknowledges the commitment Alison has given to the Group and wishes her well for the future.”
The statement also included a quote from Platt herself, in which she said: “Since joining in 2014 I have worked hard, within a difficult market, to structure a fragmented business into one set for success. I believe those actions will serve Countrywide well in the future.
“However, the time is now right for me to step aside. I look forward to seeing the business build back and return to growth.”
The statement said that the board will give further details on its strategy on March 8.
The statement added that Platt’s severance terms have been agreed and details will be posted on the company’s website “as soon as practicable”.
Meanwhile, despite the scale of the challenge, there is no shortage of high-level and experienced candidates from the world of estate agency vying to be Alison Platt’s replacement at Countrywide.
Even before her departure was confirmed, yesterday one specialist recruitment company boss said they had had five approaches from such candidates expressing interest should the post become available, and another said they had had two unsolicited approaches.
Countrywide has put its own team in place, with chairman Peter Long stepping up to become executive chairman and Paul Creffield, the experienced managing director of commercial development who joined from Rightmove, being promoted to chief operating officer.
One recruiter, Andrew Deverell-Smith, told EYE that were his firm to be given the brief to head-hunt a new chief executive, he would look first and foremost for someone with industry experience.
He said: “I would advise them to hire an estate agent. It is as simple as that.
“I would move very quickly to find someone who wants the job and can do the job, and leave no stone unturned in the search.
“Having found that person, I would then give them absolute autonomy to drive change very rapidly.”
It has emerged that Platt had been due to discuss market reaction to last week’s trading update with her senior team on Friday.
That reaction had included a fall of some 25% in the share price in the last six days.
In a memo to staff, and in her own words, she told them: “Myself and the Exec will hold a call with your Leaders on Friday, once we have a clearer idea of the market reaction.
“They will be able to share with you what is said on that call.”
That discussion, of course, will not now take place.
Yesterday, the shares went below the £1 mark for the first time, sinking close to 99p for a while, but finishing the day at 100p, according to the London Stock Exchange.