Tuesday 24 November 2020 11:30 am

Countrywide executive chairman quits as shareholders reject £90m private equity investment

The executive chairman of estate agent chain Countrywide has stepped down after shareholders rejected a £90m cash injection from private equity firm Alchemy. 

Countrywide announced this morning that Peter Long has left the company with immediate effect, with former William Hill boss Philip Bowdock stepping in as interim chief executive. 

Read more: Estate agent chain Connells confirms £82m Countrywide takeover bid

The London-listed firm said discussions with shareholders had indicated “insufficient support” for the Alchemy deal, but also a recognition of the need for new capital and a readiness to invest in the company.

It said it will continue to explore potential options including an amended cash injection from Alchemy, an £82m takeover bid from rival chain Connells and a capital raise from existing shareholders.

Connells yesterday announced it has completed its due diligence work on Countrywide and reconfirmed its offer price of 250p per share in cash. 

The company, which is a subsidiary of Skipton Building Society, said its investigation revealed that “significant capital investment is required” in excess of the £90m equity injection proposed by Alchemy.

As a standalone business Countrywide, which owns Bairstow Eve and Hampton International, has “potential to enter administration without a significant capital injection”, Connells said.

It added that it needs sustained investment over the long-term and a strong management team to lead a turnaround plan.

David Watson, who was today appointed as acting non-executive chairman, said: “Peter has worked tirelessly to secure the future of Countrywide.  

Read more: Countrywide in takeover talks with rival estate agent Connells

“He has done the company a great service in bringing our shareholders to the table for constructive talks. This is a fundamentally sound business with a bright future.  

“Philip’s wealth of experience in leading large, listed companies will be hugely valuable as we navigate the near-term challenge of recapitalising the business and position it for long-term success.”