Publisher Richard Desmond’s media empire Northern and Shell has taken an £18.7 million hit from the collapse of Emoov, its latest company accounts reveal.
Last year Northern and Shell had holdings in several digital businesses including the UK’s largest lettings agency OpenRent, dating site MySingleFriend, FrictionFreeShaving and Tepilo/Emoov, all of which lost the company money.
But after the Emoov collapse in December, Desmond’s company has now revealed that its balance sheet took an £18.7 million hit from the hybrid agency’s demise.
Northern & Shell had originally been a key investor in Tepilo after putting £1.5 million into the business in 2017 but in May last year struck a deal code named ‘project tango’.
It saw Sarah Beeny’s Tepilo website merged with eMoov and Urban.co.uk, cemented by an £8.4 million equity for debt loan to the new entity by Northern & Shell, including £2.5 million in cash.
At the time Desmond was flush with spare funds, having recently sold his publishing empire including The Daily Express newspaper to regional publishing giant Reach for £123 million.
Northern & Shell was not the only company to lose money after eMoov collapsed after making substantial losses during its final year in business.
Other eMoov debtors included Google, HMRC, a Korean investment fund, Rightmove, Channel 4, Viewber and Metropix. Other companies who like Northern & Shell had shares in the agency included Channel 4 Ventures, Sarah Beeny, and TV’s Dragon Den star James Caan.
In February, after the financial dust had settled, just £456,000 was returned to creditors who collectively were owed £15.6 million.
“Following the announcement that emoov had entered administration in December 2018, community letting platform Mashroom stepped in to save the brand by acquiring it in January 2019. Since the buy-out, the team has introduced a sustainable business model that will see the online estate agent grow in a viable way with emoov very much open for business,” says the revived eMoov’s COO Navine Jaspal.