An activist shareholder has moved to oust Paul Pindar as chairman of Purplebricks and install Harry Hill, the former chairman and CEO of Countrywide and co-founder of Rightmove.

Adam C Smith – whose firm Lecram Holdings holds a 5% share in the London-listed online estate agency – is seeking to requisition a general meeting of the company.

“The board is in the process of reviewing the legal validity of the requisition with its advisers and will make further announcements regarding the convening of a general meeting in due course,” read a company statement.

“The requisition proposes that shareholders be asked to consider resolutions to remove Paul Pindar as a director of the company, and to appoint Harry Douglas Hill as a director of the company. 

“It suggests that Harry Hill, if appointed, is made chairman of the board by the other directors of the company.”

Purplebricks has three weeks to respond to the requisition under listed company rules.

In the letter to shareholders supporting the requisition, Smith wrote: “I believe strongly that a new chairman is required now to restore the company’s credibility with all its stakeholders and to support its executive management team through the challenges which they will face in the medium term.”

In a separate statement, he said the recent departure of CFO Steve Long – who had been in the job for just 12 months – was “extremely surprising”. Dominique Highfield, who has held finance roles at Sainsbury’s, Amazon and Pentland Brands, took over as CFO yesterday.

“We are extremely surprised to see the CFO depart in under a year, without a clear explanation why,” said Smith. 

“Under Paul Pindar’s stewardship, Purplebricks has gone through four CEOs and five CFOs, which is a factor in why it has underperformed so badly. How long are shareholders prepared to wait for the chairman to accept responsibility and step down so we can end this circus and stabilise the company?”

Pindar, an early investor in Purplebricks, is best-known for his 23-year tenure as managing director and chief executive of outsourcing giant Capita plc. He became chair when Purplebricks floated in 2015.

He said of Highfield’s appointment: “I believe the partnership between [CEO] Helena [Marston] and Dominique is exactly what Purplebricks needs to create a better, sustainable performance.”

Former COO Marston took over the top job from Vic Darvey in March after he stepped down due to personal circumstances.

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After leading Countrywide for two decades, Hill sold the property services group for £1 billion. He also co-founded Rightmove, which has a current market value of more than £4bn.

Smith said: “Harry is an extremely experienced director with an intimate understanding of the UK property market. He has an excellent and relevant track record of performance which is exactly what Purplebricks needs right now.”

Hill commented: “There is a fantastic opportunity for Purplebricks to turn itself around and be a real force in the estate agency business. 

“Unfortunately, much of the goodwill, and a large amount of shareholders’ money, has been squandered in recent years and that’s why I believe that by being on the board, my extensive experience in estate agency and proptech can contribute towards Purplebricks getting back on track, stemming the cash burn and finally delivering for investors.”

Purplebricks’ statement concluded: “The board reaffirms its support for Paul Pindar as a director of the company and chairman of the board and believes that Paul has the continued support of a number of major shareholders. 

“This includes Axel Springer SE, a 26.5% shareholder in the company, which has confirmed it remains supportive of Paul and intends to vote against the proposed resolution for his removal as a director of the company.

“The changes proposed by the requisition are not in the best interests of the company or its shareholders… the board considers that Lecram Holdings Limited’s decision to lodge the requisition is disruptive when the company and its executive team are focused on delivery of its turnaround plan.”

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