Britain’s biggest estate agency group has embarked on a hunt for a new boss, paving the way for the eventual departure of its high-profile chairman.
Sky News has learnt that Countrywide, which owns the Hamptons International and Bairstow Eves brands, is working with headhunters on a search for a chief executive.
The appointment of a new leader for the business, which has endured a turbulent few years, will prompt Peter Long to step back from his role as executive chairman, according to people briefed on the process.
Mr Long, who endured a difficult spell as chairman of Royal Mail Group, is unlikely to leave the Countrywide board altogether for some time, they added.
News of the search comes four months after Countrywide and LSL Property Services called off talks about a £500m merger which would have created Britain’s largest listed property services provider.
After the coronavirus lockdown began in March, Countrywide furloughed the majority of its roughly 10,000 employees, with a substantial chunk of them having returned to work in recent weeks.
The company has struggled during a period of growing competition from online rivals, and has struggled to offload its commercial division, LSH, despite having agreed a sale late last year.
Countrywide’s value has shrunk drastically since 2007, when it was acquired by the US private equity firm Apollo Management in a deal worth £1bn.
On Tuesday, its shares closed at 118.75p, giving it a market value of just £38m.
A Countrywide spokesman declined to comment.