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Bidders lining up for Charcol

Industry speculation suggests that a management buyout of mortgage broker Charcol by a team of senior advisers could rival a bid by the firm&#39s senior technical manager Ray Boulger and head of mortgage development Walter Aberilli.

Other possibilities include Charcol being bought by estate agents Spicerhaart, Countrywide or leading broker Savills Private Finance, according to Purely Mortgages chief executive Mark Chilton.

Chilton thinks an MBO would be unlikely to succeed unless Bradford & Bingley commercial director Ian Darby is involved. But Darby&#39s future appears to be tied to B&B as he has the task of managing the sales process for the bank&#39s distribution subsidiaries.

Chilton says an outsider aiming to buy Charcol will need credibility with investors backing the deal. As revealed in Money Marketing last week, former Charcol chief executive Keith Scott is also believed to be looking to table a bid for the company.

Chilton says it is clear that B&B wants to sell its subsidiaries together. However, it is understood that it has received a lot of interest for the estate agency group and its IFA businesses Charcol Aitchison & Colegrave and Charcol Holden Meehan but not for Charcol.

Savills managing director Mark Harris says Savills&#39 phones are “ringing red hot” with calls from Charcol staff and it has already taken on 50 to 60 of its advisers. Harris says he has no plans to buy Charcol as Savills already has a similar infrastructure as well as the ability to attract Charcol advisers.

Harris thinks B&B will simply accept the best price for Charcol after paying over the odds for it in 2000 and, if that best offer comes from a management buyout, then B&B will agree to it.

Savills broker Tom Bland believes there is potential for a management buyout and that Darby is a possible contender. He also says Scott may return to bid for the mortgage broker. However, he says there are no clear front-runners at the moment.

Hamptons International Mortgages broker Jonathan Cornell says he thinks Darby will stay with B&B and poss-ibly take up a position at The Marketplace. Cornell says he cannot see any value in a venture capitalist buying Charcol and agrees that a buyout by Aberelli is possible.

B&B head of PR Siobhan Hotten says: “It is important to point out that Ian Darby is a board director for the Bradford & Bingley group and that is his role. He is managing the sales process for Charcol and that is where it starts and ends. As commercial director for the group and on the board, he will be continuing in his role.”

Bland says: “Charcol will become weaker and weaker the longer it takes to sell if people leave. It must think carefully about incentives it is offering and does not want to be in a position where staff are haemorrhaging left, right and centre.”

Chilton says: “I think an MBO is unlikely to succeed but if Ian Darby were to lead it, then its chances would be much enhanced. However, it appears he is on the side of the seller rather than the buyer.”

Harris says: “I think Charcol will come out of this in a better shape but the next six months or so will be a battle.”

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