Senior industry veteran Robin Paterson has launched an extraordinary broadside against Countrywide within a five-page letter to its chairman Peter Long setting out his plan for the company.
As The Negotiator revealed at the end of July, Paterson has spent the past month hoovering up Countrywide shares via his company Catalist Partners and now holds 3.44 million or 10.48% of the estate agency’s total stock.
Catalist is now a significant shareholder and Paterson says he has held several virtual meetings with Long to discuss the company’s ailing performance.
The letter says: “We believe it paramount that Countrywide’s stakeholders – employees, shareholders, lenders and customers – receive immediate clarity on the Company’s plans to address the significant fall in the share price; adapt to current trading conditions; address emerging customer needs; respond to evolving competitor models and; critically, explain how this will be achieved, over what time frame and who will implement such change.
“The decline in Countrywide’s financial performance over the past four years has been disappointing.
“The company’s competitors have outperformed on several key metrics and now command far higher valuations, despite generating lower revenues.”
Paterson reveals that he has published the letter because Long has refused to engage any further following initial meetings in July.
The proposals include some radical surgery including consolidating many of its 50 brands and reducing its 700-strong branch network and setting up regional off-high street super-hubs.
A new senior team is also needed including a CEO (which is currently being sought) and COO as well as a CMO marketing whizz to sell the company’s brands.
£300m sell off
As well as establishing a modern CRM system, Paterson suggests selling off its surveying, financial services and commercial arm Lambert Smith Hampton for £300m to clear it debts.
Most ominously, Paterson signs off the letter with a threat – that unless Long pulls his finger out, ‘all options’ will be pursued.
Paterson’s spokesperson would not reveal what this means in practice, but Long will know it could include a hostile takeover bid or a bid to have the company’s senior management replaced.