DTZ in turmoil as management walks out


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The Independent Online

The chief executive and finance director of DTZ yesterday walked out as a row with the commercial property agent's majority shareholder threatened to boil over.

The company announced that chief executive Paul Idzik, and finance head Robert Rickert resigned, although it did not give a reason. Shares in DTZ then plunged by almost 10 per cent on the news.

It is understood that the pair left over frustration that shareholder Saint George Participations, which owns 55 per cent of the company, had failed to table a concrete offer despite starting talks three months ago.

DTZ would only say that Mr Idzik "believes it is appropriate for a new leadership team to be put in place and has also decided to leave the company at this time".

Mr Rickert decided to leave, DTZ added, having made "substantial progress with the major cost-reduction and restructuring programme, for which he was recruited two and a half years ago".

It is believed that the two managers could not understand why the investor, which is very familiar with the structure of DTZ, could drag its heels for so long, and have pushed the non executive directors to issue a put-up-or-shut-up deadline to SGP. The tension was exacerbated by the presence of three SGP officials on DTZ's board.

The initial news that DTZ was in talks to be taken private came in May, after speculation around a potential deal had driven its shares higher. The group revealed at the time it was holding discussions with "various parties".

Shortly after, French property group SGP confirmed it was one of the companies in talks. It is believed the group had made an indicative bid of 60p per share and is keen to merge it with BNP Paribas' real estate operation almost immediately.

DTZ said yesterday it "has received a number of approaches for investment in its shares," before adding: "Whilst there can be no certainty that theseapproaches will lead to a transaction, the Board continues to review these and discussions are progressing."

In yesterday's statement, DTZ also announced it had appointed John Forrester, currently the head of the company's UK and Irish operations, as the new chief executive. James Thomson, the chief financial officer has been promoted to group finance director. Both have also joined the board.

The company posted a full-year loss of £600,000 in July after swinging from a profit of £3m a year earlier. The management admitted at the time that the results were "disappointing" but said it had gained some momentum in the second half. Mr Idzik said: "Reversing the trend of revenue decline and achieving profitable organic growth now have to happen for DTZ to deliver improved financial performance."

The management team had moved to restructure the business whose shares had tumbled over 40 per cent in the past year.

Advisers to Saint George Participations could not be reached for comment yesterday.