OnTheMarket flotation MUST succeed in order to compete at highest level, says major regional agent

The managing partner of a regional independent has said that an IPO is the best chance that OnTheMarket has of succeeding and competing at the highest level. He said the IPO must succeed in order to stop Rightmove and Zoopla’s pricing strategies seeing agents’ costs escalate out of control.

Alan Williams of Fenn Wright, an expanding firm in East Anglia with currently eight branches, said he recognised that some OTM members are angry and upset – but that balance is needed in the debate.

He went on: “We are Gold members who invested in the Agents Mutual property portal idea from the outset.

“The membership has grown and the portal stats are good in the circumstances but there is no doubt that without a radical change of strategy it will not gain the momentum necessary to compete with Zoopla and Rightmove.

“The IPO offers an opportunity for the business to raise significant capital to bring the key benefit of the OnTheMarket portal to the attention of homebuyers and sellers and significantly grow the membership base.

“It would also end the original ‘one other portal’ requirement as well as opening up the site to online-only competition. It also provides the possibility of a significant return for original Agents Mutual investors.

“For me it’s about keeping focused on the key objective. The portal must succeed and compete at the highest level.

“This would offer agents (whether full service or online) an opportunity to invest in a portal that they collectively contribute to in terms of content and traffic. This would mean agents could access the market and compete at a reasonable monthly portal cost.

“Without the competition of a significant third portal, there is a risk that pricing strategy for RM and Zoopla could see agents’ costs escalate out of proportion to general running costs.”

Williams told EYE that the key USP – that of being able to list “new and exclusive” properties ahead of other portals – would continue to be important, and be attractive to both vendors and buyers.

He said: “Motivated buyers have a very good reason to register if they can ‘see it first’ at OnTheMarket and this is therefore a useful strategic option to be able to discuss with vendor clients.”

Williams said: “The IPO has to succeed. It is in the interests of agents, including online agents, and all of us who make our livings from estate agency.”

He added that the 10% discount available to OTM agents who continue to list with only one other portal after a flotation would be an attractive discount.

Williams said: “We dropped Zoopla to join OTM, and we have no plans to go back to Zoopla, even after the One Other Portal Rule is technically dropped.”


UPDATE 10.32am. Agents’ Mutual has asked us to state that: Contrary to comments posted today, the Board firms’ shares and those of management are subject to the same lock-in period as that of every Member firm. This period is transparently printed on page 17 of the Member Scheme document.


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  1. smile please

    Why must it succeed?

    Surely it’s better off dead rather than creating another RM or Z?

    1. mark_one

      Exactly. I have lost all trust In OTM now. Ian Springett looked so uncomfortable presenting his case. Why have 3 portals. Yes Rightmove will go up in price, yes Zoopla will go up in price and yes, guess what so will OTM.

    2. Bless You

      in principle it should have already worked but no agents have guts to leave rightmove. Everyone should  have been asked that before launch…but if they had, om wouldn’t exist. If going public I want to see results not pay outs. Sick of watching the city exploit all the time.

    3. Bless You

      what is most upsetting is agents will be bitten and twice shy now. If a genuine rightmove killer came along, no one would trust it. Shame on you . Why wasn’t it made a not for profit company in first place. Agents mutual is a misleading name.

      1. AgentV

        Exactly…if the vote ends up ‘Yes’ no one will ever trust new ideas launched ‘for the good of the industry’ ever again.

        RM and Z will just sit back knowing a credible potential threat has been eliminated and if they want to, they can just snap the whole thing up for a song…when the share price falters.

    4. Industry_Pro

      OTM doesn’t need to be left for dead, it just needs to be developed into something that the public need above all others, a GoTo property related site – it’s called innovation.

      We and the public who might use OTM once every 7-10 years [average sales cycle] don’t need just another copy cat site.

  2. Curious george

    Total rubbish! Investment comes from the agents monthly subscriptions! That’s all RM and Z rely on. Any other investments require a return on it, which means higher prices. This is RM2! The only person that wins out of this is Ian spriggot. £20m is not bad for a few years work!

  3. Yorkshire Agent

    We have just been notified by an increase in charges by Rightmove, the only way to  clip their wings  is by having a seriously viable, highly competitive affordable (now and for the future) alternative and without that we will have a monster of a monopoly to pay for in good and poor trading times.  That is why we have voted in favour to move forward and back The IPO.

    1. smile please

      And you want to vote for another portal to push you products and hit you with yearly increase.

      You are mad!

    2. waco79

      Zoopla is an alternative…. just saying…;-)


  4. GPL

    Alan Fenn states…

    “there is no doubt that without a radical change of strategy it will not gain the momentum necessary to compete with Zoopla and RIghtmove”

    No one would disagree with that comment however Members are being offered the CEO/Board’s V2 strategy, Version 1 of which we originally signed up for. We believed then.

    Now Members are being offered just the 1 New Option….

    OTM V2 – Float or Fail… we are being asked to trust that they know best?

    Trust that they know best? …..like we did last time?



    1. MarkRowe

      Agreed, GPL.

      My main gripes are the amount IS will potentially gain from this and the lack of consultation with the members since the start about this IPO and other decisions made since the start.

      I actually really respect my OTM rep, he’s a good chap, but I’ve lost count the amount of times I’ve asked for a simple voting system to be put in place for all the things that they have decided on and not consulted members!

      I agree there needs to be something done but to give one option and spend a huge amount of subscription money from the members, without consultation, without an alternative and to then ‘spring’ (#sorrynotsorry!) it on us just isn’t acceptable.

  5. GPL

    Alan Fenn states….

    ” It also provides the possibility of a significant return for original Agents Mutual investors. ”

    ….and noting those self granted mind boggling share rewards are made to the CEO, Board, Undisclosed Others…. without any delivery of success… just for delivering an IPO.

    So Sir, Madam…. I’ve popped your For Sale Board up, here is my bill!

    It’s much less angry? Alan, much more “amazed” that this the only option on the table.

    If the CEO/Board believe in OTM V2 then they should step forward and offer to take NO Rewards until they deliver defined success. Step forward with Options for Members

    I’m sorry… personally I find it very hollow…”Trust us again, like you did last time?”


    1. Thomas Flowers

      “Always be on your guard against tyranny, whatever shape it may assume.” Winston Churchill

  6. RealAgent

    I didn’t join the debate yesterday but I did think it was incredibly interesting that there were all of the old OTM bashers, not members I hasten to add, desperate to see members reject this IPO and wading into the argument. Why?

    My guess would be Zoopla know that it’s only through this that OTM would truely be the threat they feared.

    I’m not going to say it’s perfect it isn’t. But I would ask you this, how many 1-6 office outfits (the majority of agents in the U.K.) have meaningful shares in Zoopla or Rightmove?

    OTM won’t be the cozy we are all in together feel we started with, but that was only ever a partial success, it’s through this IPO that in my opinion it can genuinely give RM in particular a run for its money.

    I hasten to mention the management but all of the they should do this, we should do that was enough to tell me WHY we have to have leadership even if you don’t always agree with it.

    1. GPL

      Well Real Agent…. in the spirit of Leadership?

      GPL… me, I am Graeme Lumsden, GOLD OTM Member

      ….and you are? ….and Member status?

      1. RealAgent

        I’m not sure who I am is relevant but I am a silver status member with the balance of my 5 year status to run.

        What I am a little concerned about however is that whilst debate is healthy, I’m all for that,  but the mere fact you asked WHO I was makes you sound like the self imposed leader of a mob running around the village looking to burn witches.

        Just saying.



        1. GPL


          You stated…

          “but I did think it was incredibly interesting that there were all of the old OTM bashers, not members I hasten to add, desperate to see members reject this IPO and wading into the argument. Why?”

          I don’t know who are AM Members on this forum or not however you made the aforementioned statement, based on what evidence?

          You mentioned at the end of your post about “leadership” ….hence, l took the lead to actually show who I am and what membership status I have… as you seemed to possess evidence that anyone who was Voting NO or had doubts about any New OTM was merely an OTM Basher?

          It establishes whether someone posting is in your words “an OTM Basher, not members”.

          I’ll bypass your witches & mob comment. Just because someone has a different view from you, they are not akin to a rebel.

          I am documented on here under my initials GPL months & years ago as hugely PRO OTM and a Day 1 GOLD MEMBER Company who put money on the table – so, when you say “all the OTM Bashers, not members” you are whipping up a “mob scenario” which simply isn’t true.

          Let’s keep the “debate” a debate as we approach V-Day. I remain respectful of whatever way any member chooses to Vote.

          ….and for the record, I am NO Leader and gain nothing financially …..Voting NO will actually cost my Company money ….. however, for me, my principles are NOT For Sale.

          1. RealAgent

            I think GPL that those that look at the history of OTM discussions on this site will know exactly the ones to whom I refer.

            That didn’t include you, as I have said I respect your opposing view to mine.

  7. sb007ck

    Are the OTM supporters forgetting how history has worked? Back in the day there was RIghtmove, we all advertised on it, and that was that….then came along Zoopla, most people hadnt heard of it, but it got traction, and through various pressures, most estate agents not advertise on that as well. A third portal, if it gains enough traction and public awareness, doesnt become competition, or an alternative, it just becomes yet another place that you have to spend money. If OTM becomes as big as Zoopla for example, some agents will end up feeling compelled to advertise with all 3 portals. So what ever way you look at it, this ends up as lose, lose, lose

    1. AgentV

      Especially as it will be highly likely that YOPA and the other online listers may well start claiming ‘they are the only way to list your property on all three major portals’.

  8. AgentV

    AUGUST 24, 2017 AT 12:11 PM
    An alternative plan I posted late yesterday for after a NO vote;
    1). A management team is installed consisting of people from the industry who are dedicated to the ideals of the original offering and particularly in the ‘Full Service’ concept.
    2). Rules are put in place to eliminate any chance of the management team working towards their own potential gain rather than what is for the greater good and best for the membership.
    3). A comprehensive member engagement system is put in place with regular communication, quarterly regional get togethers and a voting system for any significant major issues raised.
    New ideas and innovation are taken on board and used to develop new products specifically for the benefit of members in finding and creating more business.
    4). An intelligent marketing campaign is rolled out through social media (not far more expensive and less effective TV advertising) to increase public awareness by engaging with people, drive new business to members and attract other agents and their stock to join,,,,,,creating even more awareness, income for the business and growth.
    5).  All members are given a ‘Buy Out’ guarantee which means that when they retire there is a formula in place to buy out what they have contributed in the years they have been a member. This will be paid for by a contingency fund set up for the purpose and will reflect a proportion of the value of the business equivalent to if it were a listed company at that point. Longer term members will have built up more…..incentivising and rewarding the original members more with hopefully a nice little pension pot.
    Put this in place for the next two to three years and then look at the whole situation again. If at that point the a majority of the increased membership wanted to float, then at least it would be worth far more than it is now as a successful growing business with a management team behind it driven to make it succeeed rather than being financially rewarded for it faltering on the brink of failure!!!

  9. waco79

    The Daily Mash

    Man that got it wrong the first time,standing to make money if people do as he says, tells people to believe him this time and do as he says.

  10. GilesH

    HE IS A GOLD MEMBER AND IS SEEING £ SIGNS. IN HIS OWN WORDS IT CREATES “a significant return for original Agents Mutual investors.”



    1. AgentV

      AND THE FEW apparently can walk away almost immediately into the sunset, having pocketed the proceeds of the sale of their windfall shares!

  11. Ric

    Forgive typos I’m on holiday with dodgy reception. So here goes…..

    What a load of ********.


    1. GPL

      who is “dodgy reception” Ric ….are they Voting? 😉

  12. Thomas Flowers

    OTM/AM do need to survive in order to provide an alternative to the dupology. However, it needs to create a niche offering, something different to the two main portals.

    The earlybird initiative was a real danger which may be why RM introduced its FREE real time data upload with its own user licence that few agents are aware of. By delaying any upload to RM now, agents may technically be in breach of this licence and given 14 days notice to desist. I imagine it would be very difficult to upload RM without access to their real time feed?

    No wonder RM chose to cut the overnight feed on 4th July 2016?

    By providing RM with real time data they are now able to provide instant alerts which further drive applicants away from agents own websites but you can now pay to optimise your company, at significant cost, to help overcome this!

    An essential upload field is a property number, even though this shall not be displayed on their website. Presumably to enable them to sell this data to other agents for further profit? Apparently, this does not currently breach data protection rules on direct marketing as it does not include the seller’s name, ie Dear homeowner.

    This control appears to be the greatest rout of the independent sector by any corporate institution, ever, and for FREE!

    The OTM/AM boards response was: Overseas property, Countrylife, posh London magazine, commercial property, risky OOP law case that they did not need to get sucked into and now wish to drop in any case, so soon after winning.

    It appears that the current board had the idea to float quite a while back?

    The board is asking for members to vote on an IPO to raise £50,000,000 to take on the two main portals. The YES vote new contract ties agents into a new 5 year deal and are unable to sell the vast majority of their shares during this period which is probably what the attraction would be to institutional investors.

    I suspect that the share value may be at its highest shortly after a float, particularly if OTM are unable to sign up considerably more new members which may prove to be difficult as there are now some substantial ‘trust’ issues to overcome?

    However, It appears that  IS, ‘key’ workers and board shareholders could sell all their shareholding immediately after a YES vote floatation if they resigned or there was a ‘Corporate event’ such as a takeover or other.

    These shareholders apparent hold a rounded stake of 12,000,000 shares times £5 = £60,000,000 which is more than the amount they are trying to raise to take on the dupology?

    For whatever reason, the board appears desperate to convince members to vote YES.

    So much so,  it appears that members who are in arrears are able to vote YES but ‘remarkably’ (courtesy of ‘Michael) not NO.

    I shall be voting No.

    If indeed an IPO is the only option which I doubt, I would rather negotiate a better deal with the board beforehand as I do not believe their performance to date is worth the financial reward they are seeking.

    A No vote would give members time to draw breath and consider alternative strategies that could give OTM/AM an advantage at little cost.

    Circa 12,000,000 shares is around 22% of shares ie 250,000,000 valuation divided by £5 = 50,000,000 shares.

    In estate agency terms would you pay a 22% commission on a £250,000,000 sale or be extremely happy with 1% plus all your marketing costs covered?

    Particularly if you are highly paid already?

    Personally, if an IPO is the only option, which I doubt. Would I rather have £100 plus million to take on the dupology or £50 million?





  13. DesRes87

    I think everyone is missing the point – Whether you want to vote “Yes” or “No”  – Everyone should be voting “No” for the following reasons:

    1. You can negotiate a better “Yes” deal than being milked to the tune of £40m by your CEO & Board –  I thought Estate Agents were practiced in the art of “Negotiating” !

    2.As a “No” – Stay as you are, drop the OOP rule & welcome the Onliners – No payout to the CEO & Board and you gain the increased traction that their “New” strategy is going to deliver !

    3. As a  “No” – Deliver an alternative strategy keeping to the founding principals and get a new CEO & Board to deliver it.



    Whichever viewpoint whether “Yes” or “No” the above points hold true?

  14. willco

    The only way that people would be feel forced to use all 3 portals would be if all 3 were equal in the public’s eyes, they aren’t, it’s Rightmove and then the rest whatever they are called and that’s not going to change in the foreseeable future.

    So if you’ve invested in OTM (we’re gold members) do we just give up and let it die or carry on supporting on the basis that there’s nothing to lose if you do. If either course fails the original investment is lost.

    We choose the latter, we’d rather it succeed even in a different form than not all. Partly because we’ll still have a stake but mostly because it has been and all most undoubtedly will be, the best chance to keep RM and Z at least slightly more honest with more resources to raise its profile.

    Without OTM it’s difficult to see where a future challenger to the big two will come from. Bearing in mind that a portal is totally dependant on stock, who would risk it, or more importantly get it to succeed, if a portal set up by agents for agents with a significant investment from those agents, doesn’t?

    Surely the main question for all OTM agents (not the same old Zoopla huggers who only seem to surface when an OTM story appears but mysteriously don’t seem to have opinions on any other PIE stories) will be what course of action you feel has the best chance of making OTM a success?

    1. AgentV

      The only way that people would be feel forced to use all 3 portals would be if all 3 were equal in the public’s eyes, they aren’t, it’s Rightmove and then the rest whatever they are called and that’s not going to change in the foreseeable future.

      What about if the online listers started singing from the rooftops that they were the way to reach the widest audience, because they listed properties on all THREE portals?

  15. J1

    Sounds like another mid sized agent with high overheads that needs the cash

    These are the ones that will be voting for the float boys and girls

    Mark my words

  16. Industry_Pro

    “The IPO offers an opportunity for the business to raise significant capital to bring the key benefit of the OnTheMarket portal to the attention of homebuyers and sellers….”
    -…and those unique benefits to the home owning public are what exactly?
    This is the real peanut in this story.
     Without a USP and radical innovation OTM is just another mediocre property portal.
    By comparison to OTM’s future strategy RM spend around £54m per annum on opex including a sprinkling on advertising.
    If OTM were to innovate properly and become a true disruptor in its market and present the public with an irresistible offering – then huge sums for marketing would not be necessary. Member agents would be proud to promote the innovation and would be very proactive in doing so within their respective markets.
    Lack of true innovation and effective leadership is the REAL problem here. The £50m will disappear very quickly.
    The board should accept to be paid on results only – 100% PRP.

    If the board achieves market dominance then and ONLY then do they deserve a healthy reward.

  17. Agent090

    AgentV – from what I understand you better be careful about stating that board members (why people keep mentioning board members I’ve no idea, they are non exec and don’t get paid or rewarded with shares personally) can waltz off having sold all their shares. I understand that they’ll be treated, as will management, exactly the same as other members, i.e. 10% and 10%. Can you show us your proof for your comments?

    1. revilo

      “AgentV – from what I understand you better be careful about stating that board members (why people keep mentioning board members I’ve no idea, they are non exec and don’t get paid or rewarded with shares personally) can waltz off having sold all their shares. I understand that they’ll be treated, as will management, exactly the same as other members, i.e. 10% and 10%. Can you show us your proof for your comments?”

      Agent090 – if you were an AM member you would be well aware of the answers to your comments..


    2. AgentV

      AgentV – from what I understand you better be careful about stating that board members (why people keep mentioning board members I’ve no idea, they are non exec and don’t get paid or rewarded with shares personally) can waltz off having sold all their shares. I understand that they’ll be treated, as will management, exactly the same as other members, i.e. 10% and 10%. Can you show us your proof for your comments?

      Courtesy of Michael who posted yesterday;

      Also re shares lock in periods, we the members would need to keep 80% for 5 years but 2.4 of ‘Directors & Management MIP shares’ document says that they are not restricted by any lock in period if ‘corporate events’ occur such as a take over or ceasing employment with OTM. So it looks as though should IS cease employment upon flotation he could dispose of his shares! Unlikely of course but a bit much to decide that it makes good business sense to restrict the members from share sales but to have far more relaxed restrictions for management given MIPs.

      1. Agent090

        AgentV – guessing you’ve now seen the comment posted at the foot of the original article – so the idea that some can sell up immediately isn’t true. What is it Trump keeps talking about?

        1. AgentV

          I didn’t say it was fact….I said apparently….based on what other people had interpreted from the documentation. But as I usually do in these circumstances I hold my hand up and say I stand corrected!

          But perhaps someone could explain what clause 2.4 in the Directors & Management MIP shares document actually states and means then?

  18. apostropheV96

    It’s all a bit of a porridge really!

    Let’s be in no doubt AM was a good idea but most joiners were too afraid to drop RM because they knew their 3 or 4 main competitors would see it as an opportunity to slag them off!  RM = Damned if do – Damned if you don’t!  And by our actions WE all made RM stronger and allowed them to shake our hand with one while the their other hand is in our back pocket rifling notes.

    Some sort of flotation is probably the only way AM can raise enough money to compete but it’s all been a bit hasty and what with IS and the Board agents being able to trade their vulgar amount of proposed shares 5 years before the rest of us is both unfair and cowardly.

    Remember Savilles perverse engagement to YOPA to the tune of an £18m investment is probably the main reason for the proposal to allow online call centre agents to list on OTM – talk about carping on your own doorstep!

    OTM needs investment but this hurried and desperate attempt to raise capital is the wrong way.

    Vote NO – take stock and propose a proper strategy to compete.  Don’t bin your core values to make a fast buck!

    As a Gold Member I would indeed be swayed to vote Yes to an IPO – but not like this.

    Drop the OOP rule and let OTM compete but for flucks sake, never vote to allow call centre listers to advertise until they are regulated and can show a proper duty of fiduciary care to their vendors.




    1. Industry_Pro

      Agree with the sentiment as above.

      There is a real pressure from the board to execute this funding round quickly; perhaps before the promise of institutional support evaporates and the money goes elsewhere. They are counting on the power of the  “Fear of Loss” emotion.

      If members believe in OTM’s potential and core values, and if a disruptive customer focused business model were to be developed then why would members not fund it internally? Consequently there would be no need to give away ownership or control of the company and open the door to exposure to significant cost increases.

      Within the minutes of January’s ‘secret meeting’ [yesterday’s posts] Ian Springett has stated that raising further funds from the members, existing and new is a non starter – why is this the case? Perhaps because members do not have confidence in the product or the leadership or both?

      The business belongs to the membership – either invest in the development of YOUR business directly or sell it on and move on.


  19. GPL

    ….here is a comment which I have just received at

    theestateagencyindustry.co.uk (teai.co.uk)

    “Deferred debt in exchange for a yes vote !! Surely illegal as well as immoral , unethical . Sadly the agents need to make themselves known but some may need to take up,the offer if near to the wire  . Others will require to give their name and what has surprised me is the fear ?  Or reluctance for agents to do so . I unde5stand  not wanting to put name out there but as individuals many people should be able to do so on their own right but I suppose when people work alone in small businesses they may feel isolated”

    It’s another view. I assume Agents Mutual can clarify?



  20. cyberduck46

    Why not agree to the float and if the prices go up leave and create another portal with lower prices?


    I’m not sure the public want another portal though.

  21. AgentV

    If you read all the comments that have been posted, the balance of negatives and things that could (and we know from life experience …will) go wrong if there is a YES vote far outweighs any potential positives, unless of course you become a multi millionaire from it.

    A NO vote gives time to take stock, look and consider new ideas, innovation and motivation…..and above all else turn the corner into positive growing territory once again, without compromising the founding principles.

  22. Reborncoyote25

    Someone asked the question in a related thread last week, but I’ve seen no definitive answer to the “what is the situation if I’ve voted NO, after a YES vote win”?

    I am a fully paid up Gold member.

  23. BrandNew

    Gold Member

    Question: Part 2. clause 2.1 of the proposal.

    Who are the 4 key members of management (the participants) covered by the Management Incentive Plan (MIP), and what are the “2016 Agreements” entered into by the company in September 2016. It states they had interests in 4,878,049 ‘securities’ granted to them in the event of the members scheme becoming effective.

    So they knew in September 2016 that an IPO was likely and handed out a large proportion of the company without notifying its members?

    If each security is essentially one share then that’s approx. 12%

    So the board members get 3,109,108 shares (7.79%), IS gets 3.902,439 shares (9.78%) and the MIP’s get 4,878,049 (12.22%) which makes a total of 29.79%. They plan to issue shares to the value of approx. 20% to institutions and then also use additional share issues to sweeten any deal with the Corporates. I make that over 50% of the company already handed out. I.E. the majority share.

    I look forward to being corrected…..

  24. harry hood

    This makes the corporate raiders and vulture capitalists of the 80’s look meek and mild.

    When can people stand up for some decent corporate governance. All decent (and non-decent) institutional asset managers will be looking at and insisting on corporate governance and beginning at the executive board level. The payout to the select few is robbery in everything but name.



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