Activist calls for break-up of estate agent Countrywide

Estate agent Countrywide is under attack from one of its largest shareholders who has accused bosses of mismanaging the company and losing the trust of investors.

Catalist Partners, an investment firm co-founded by entrepreneur Robin Paterson, has written to executive chairman Peter Long calling for a shake-up of the top team and a break-up of the company.

Paterson said that Countrywide, which owns 61 estate agent brands including Hamptons International and Bairstow Eves, had fallen short of its competitors.

Catalist Partners, an investment firm co-founded by entrepreneur Robin Paterson, has written to Countrywide executive chairman Peter Long calling for a shake-up of the top team

Catalist Partners, an investment firm co-founded by entrepreneur Robin Paterson, has written to Countrywide executive chairman Peter Long calling for a shake-up of the top team

Catalist Partners, an investment firm co-founded by entrepreneur Robin Paterson, has written to Countrywide executive chairman Peter Long calling for a shake-up of the top team

He said: ‘Fresh investor capital has evaporated and, with it, the trust of shareholders. Staff morale may justifiably be at an all-time low. The leadership needs to be urgently addressed, not least to be able to attract the best talent.’

Paterson said Countrywide, which also owns a surveying business, a commercial property consultancy and a mortgage and insurance brokerage unit, had to focus on estate agency. 

It is the UK’s largest estate agent, but Paterson wants the company to consolidate its brands under a few key names and to cut back its 731 branches.

Long, 68, stepped in as executive chairman when chief executive Alison Platt resigned in 2018 but since he took the helm, shares are down 95 per cent.

It is now worth £44million, considerably less than in 2007, when it was sold in a £1billion deal. 

Catalist says that it is keen to speed up the search to find a new leader. 

Paterson said: ‘Personality is integral to this industry, and because of this we believe the right CEO must come from within the industry There are excellent candidates available.’

Countrywide said yesterday: ‘We are in regular and constructive dialogue with our main shareholders and will be updating the market in due course when we publish our half-year results.’

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