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Founders are poised to buy back Charcol

Charcol’s co-founders look set to buy back the firm in the first week of December.

Co-founders John Garfield and Charles Wishart are understood to be fronting a deal backed by current and former management.

It is uncertain whether Ian Darby, the ex-group communications director of Bradford & Bingley, will be part of the team while head of product development Walter Avrili and senior technical manager Ray Boulger look set to stay as part of the new management team. Managing director Ricky Okey is understood to be leaving Charcol.

Industry sources have suggested that private investor Jon Moulton and the private equity company Advantage Capital are backing the deal but neither was available for comment.

It is believed from sources close to Charcol that the move could bring a downsizing exercise as the firm tries to re-establish the original business model it had when B&B paid 102.5m for it four years ago. Charcol projected profits of only 74,000 for 2004.

Industry experts say the new management team faces tough decisions over the internet-based part of the firm because of the conflict of having a no-fee business and a fee-based business under the same brand. They also anticipate that downsizing could result in the closure of its least profitable branches.

A source says: “Charcol is trying to get back to its old form. It has given consultants some options and is also trying to get back some of its original consultants. It will be an interesting time in the marketplace over the next few weeks.”

B&B head of PR Siobhan Hotten says: “It is all speculation, speculation, speculation and there is simply nothing more to add.”

Charcol would not comment on the matter.


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