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Countrywide chair to accept external role

Countrywide chairman, Harry Hill, will accept a chief executive role outside the group if shareholders of his prospective second employer succeed in ousting the current board.

Rebel shareholders of Sovereign Reversions, the Alternative Investment Market-listed home reversion provider, called for an Extraordinary General Meeting earlier this month to oust the current board and replace it with a new team including Hill and former 3i partner Peter Gordon as finance director. They are understood to want the new team to sell the company’s assets and return the cash to shareholders.

Speaking exclusively to The Negotiator, Hill says: “If the consortium of shareholders - of which I am part - manage at an EGM, which we have requisitioned, to remove the chairman, chief executive officer and finance director, I will take over as chief executive officer.

“Peter Gordon will become finance director and we propose to close the business to all new business and run-off the assets as quickly and economically as possible to absolutely maximise the cash available to pay down debt and return to shareholders.”

But Hill insists that he will undertake the role in addition to his chairmanship at Countrywide, refuting suggestions of a conflict of interest in view of Countrywide being a likely bidder for Sovereign’s assets.

“In a run off, I would propose to work very closely with my colleagues at Countrywide to ensure that all homes are sold at the highest possible price and do not see it as any conflict of interest - quite the opposite in fact.

“Countrywide management and senior shareholders agree, and I would certainly wish to retain my role there.”

Hill claims that Sovereign, which enables home owners aged 55 years and over to sell all or part of their property in return for a cash lump sum for their retirement, has around 1,000 dormant properties to sell following the death of their former owners.

The company’s annual accounts for 2008 reveal that the value of its total assets increased 17% to £77.9m during the year.

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