Claims Direct loses second chief in five months

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Colin Poole, the chief executive and co-founder of Claims Direct, is stepping down from the helm of the beleaguered no-win, no-fee personal injury business.

The decision marked the second major change this year in Claims Direct senior executives. In January, its chairman Tony Sullman was removed from the front line and made non-executive.

The company also lost its marketing director, Roger Plantier, in April after he headed an advertising campaign that failed to create substantial new business.

Mr Poole has been replaced by Paul Doona, the finance director, who will also continue with his existing duties. Mr Poole has become the non-executive deputy chairman. The Telford-based company denied yesterday that Mr Poole had been downgraded.

The company has been hit by sustained bad publicity because some of its customers have lost nearly all of their compensation winnings due to the hefty insurance premiums that Claims Direct forced them to take out.

Mr Poole was Mr Sullman's right-hand man when Claims Direct was set up and has been closely associated with its varying fortunes. Yesterday the company's shares fell 1p to 18.75p on the latest upheaval. Claims Direct shares have been on a downwards spiral since their high in September of 353.5p.

Barrie Cornes, an analyst at Charterhouse, said: "Colin Poole has been at the forefront of the claim-blame revolution, and he was jointly responsible for Claims Direct's business model. I can see why a change in leadership makes sense, but he does have certain strengths."

In a statement that will add to speculation that Claims Direct is trying to find a buyer, the company said Mr Poole would continue to "assist in the evaluation of opportunities, including potential acquisitions and mergers."

The company has tried to solve its image problem by trying to pass on the cost of the insurance premium to insurers covering defendants. But many insurers have so far refused to cover the premiums, saying they are too high.

Mr Sullman founded Claims Direct after working with a similar claims system in his former job as a taxi driver.