RIP Douglas & Gordon

Ed Mead

I was very sad to hear about the demise of Douglas & Gordon last week. D&G was, to me, an example of how a business doesn’t need to be run for cold hard profit – but rather to benefit all its stakeholders, staff and clients as well as shareholder/owners.

I used to joke with fellow office manager Pete Rollings when he was running South Ken for rivals Foxtons and I was running Chelsea for D&G. The difference in style and workload was obvious and there were many in the industry willing to denigrate the way Foxtons worked. The number of their ex-employees now running much bigger businesses is staggering and the received wisdom that profit is all has become a mantra and methodology in many of them. In a business that’s predominantly about relationships I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing.

D&G was a product of a brilliant MD, one Ivor Dickinson and supportive owners, marshalled [often literally] by a wonderfully old school chairman, Michael Hodgson. The fun and caring atmosphere created, and the fact that it was from the start in 1958, lettings led, created substantial value in the business and led, ironically, to Foxtons buying it.

Ivor created a business that punched above its weight from a PR and, particularly, marketing perspective. A google search might reveal some of the fabulous annual campaigns, many featured employees and/or avantgarde imagery designed to create discussion in a way no one in the industry had before. In particular his series of spoof documentaries [] was so close to the bone that one conservative rival encouraged managers to send the link to any potential client, so convinced were they it really was about D&G.

The confidence of a business able to laugh at itself is at odds with an industry suffering, like politics, from a radicalised and increasingly outspoken criticism of anyone trying something different. The ongoing vitriol directed at Purplebricks is an example, with everything from a drop in standards and fees blamed on them. Despite their current problems, it’s easy to forget there’s clearly a demand for such a business and as a new generation of buyers and sellers used to click to buy emerges, change will happen. Sitting on the side lines shouting isn’t going to help.

For me personally it was always going to be a tough ask for Foxtons to hive the newly purchased D&G’s sales side off, and despite some commentators claiming it was the best deal since sliced bread, the writing was clearly on the wall.

For me it was a golden era working with some fantastic people – many of whom have gone on to have ever more successful careers. To Ivor [RIP], Michael, Virg, George, Eileen, Patrick, Nic, Nikki, Xandra, Emma and so many more – thank you for some great memories and for teaching me so much.

Ed Mead is the founder of Viewber. 


EYE NEWSFLASH! Douglas & Gordon believed to have gone into Administration



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  1. Robert_May

    Watching what you’ve built, watching people you’ve  employed, destroyed  is gut wrenching.

    When bean counters who have no understanding  of the value of a business, a product an industry  get their hands on an asset and all the goodwill that goes with it its gut wrenching like watching a healthy dog  cruelly euthanized  because it doesn’t  match the new carpet.

    Someone needs to understand the value  of the brand and use that to good effect.  The timing isn’t  great but the dead file value of D&G is  massive.


    1. 40yearvetran08

      Robert you have hit the nail on the head. Marsh & Parsons is another prime example, purchased by LSL for about £50m. They do not understand estate agency as the board is made up of bean counters, not a single estate agent on it, they end up selling it for nearly half what they paid for it, dropping about £24m in the process. How the shareholders stand by and let them get away with it is beyond me. To add further insult they give the directors a bonus of £1m for their trouble. Nice work if you can get it.

  2. Colin Adiuvo

    Different department (but same office) as many you have mentioned there, including yourself, learnt pretty much everything about Property Management there and a fair bit about marketing and running a business from Ed and Michael. Sad day.

  3. BarryPassmore

    Sage words indeed Ed and I am with you all the way on the Purple Bricks thing.  It was brave and inciteful but ultimately no cigar.  I have to say I am probably not alone in thinking that was always going to be the case for a number of reasons but perhaps mainly because big corporates, as we know, tend not to excel on the relationships front.  Rather than opening any door to something better, however, sadly they do seem to have rather sullied the very word ‘online’ and hidden its true significance and role in what must surely be an evolving reinvention of our ‘industry’ (I always cringe a little when I use that word in this context).  We use you guys all the time and with Viewber power now available to even a one-man-band the question that never seems to be asked is ‘what more would you want Mr or Mrs client?’  I always think of the bank advert where the manager lived under the stairs (not in the wardrobe apparently).
    The times are definitely changing and, whilst many of our generation will mourn the passing of a golden age as we saw it, maybe, just maybe, there is a door now finally opening ever so slightly to recovering some of those standards and attitudes that we were fearing had been lost.

  4. londoneye

    This has been on the cards since the start. You only have to look back and see what Foxtons thought what the sales business was worth.

    Taking the letting business out of the equation meant having to turn round at (£1.9m) loss making sales business while taking on 100% of the overheads. It was never going to work.

    Many are now wondering if something similar might happen to other companies which have been recently bought, their letting business being absorbed into the buyers existing business and the sales part and all the liabilities being sold off.


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