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Purplebricks faces renewed activist investor call to oust chairman

Online estate agent Purplebricks has come under renewed pressure from an activist investor who is looking to remove its chairman and replace him with Rightmove founder and former boss of rival Countrywide Harry Hill.

Adam Smith’s investment vehicle, Lecram Holdings, which owns a stake of more than 5% in Purplebricks, has demanded a general meeting for shareholders to vote on his proposal to oust Paul Pindar and appoint industry stalwart Mr Hill.

In a letter to shareholders, Mr Smith said: “The performance of the company under the current chairman, Paul Pindar, has been disastrous, particularly in terms of value for shareholders.

“The company has had no less than four chief executives, five chief financial officers and many changes in other senior executives, but there has been one constant – the chairman – who has held the post since 2014.

“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.”

It marks the latest attempt in a long-running campaign by Lecram to remove Mr Pindar, after it called for him to resign in July following a plunging share price and after sinking to a loss as it lost market share to rivals.

Purplebricks said it “reaffirms its support for Paul Pindar” and added that major shareholders, including 27% stakeholder Axel Springer, also back the chairman, and intends to vote against the resolution to remove him as a director.

The group said: “The board is firmly of the view that the board changes proposed by the requisition are not in the best interests of the company or its shareholders.”

It added that the move by Lecram is “disruptive when the company and its executive team are focused on delivery of this turnaround plan”.

Purplebricks is also reviewing the legality of Lecram’s call for a general meeting and will make further announcements on this “in due course”.

Lecram said that, under the Companies Act, Purplebricks has three weeks to respond to the letter, and must hold a general meeting within a further two to four weeks.

Purplebricks, which has seen its shares plunge by nearly 90% over the past 12 months, is in the middle of a turnaround plan being led by new chief executive Helena Marston, who joined earlier this year after former boss Vic Darvey stepped down in March due to “personal reasons”.