Belfast Telegraph

Countrywide boss steps down in wake of profit alert

Alison Platt said the ‘time is now right’ to step aside, with chairman Peter Long replacing her as executive chairman until a successor is appointed.

Countrywide chief executive Alison Platt has quit days after the estate agency’s shock profit warning sent shares plummeting to a record low.

Chairman Peter Long has stepped in to replace Ms Platt as executive chairman until a successor is appointed, while commercial development boss Paul Creffield has been named group operations director and will take charge of the embattled sales and lettings arm.

Ms Platt said the “time is now right” to stand aside after more than three years at the helm.

The move comes after it was reported earlier this week that the group’s board was discussing Ms Platt’s future at the group in the wake of the dire profit alert.

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Countrywide – Britain’s biggest listed estate agency and owner of brands including Hamptons and Bridgfords – said last Thursday that a “disappointing” end to 2017 would leave annual earnings slumping to £65 million against £83.5 million the previous year.

The news sent its shares tumbling to the lowest on record on Monday.

Ms Platt 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.”

Ms Platt will receive a pay-off, with details to come “as soon as practicable”, Countrywide said.

Mr Long said the group’s woes were in its sales and lettings area, admitting this is where the firm had “lost focus”.

He added: “A key priority will be to implement changes that will enable this area to start delivering once again.”

As executive chairman, Mr Long will see his pay double from £180,000 to £360,000 a year.

Ms Platt joined the group from outside the property market, having worked as a senior executive at private health giant Bupa and airline British Airways.

The group’s warning last week revealed sales and letting income is expected to be around £205 million, down 17% year on year, and in London it is forecast to be 10% down at £155 million.

The housing market has also experienced a marked slowdown since the Brexit vote, and Countrywide said last year that the EU referendum had a “sustained impact on sentiment”, with fewer buyers and sellers coming to the market.

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