Spowart sells price comparison website to SMG

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The Independent Online

The media group SMG unveiled plans to launch a new financial services comparison website yesterday, headed by the Scottish entrepreneur Jim Spowart, the founder of Standard Life Bank and Intelligent Finance.

Peopleschampion.com will compete against the likes of uSwitch and Motley Fool, which offer price comparisons for everything from insurance to credit cards to home phone packages. It will be established in conjunction with moneysupermarket.com, the UK's largest financial comparison website.

SMG hopes to make the site profitable within its first year, harnessing the marketing power of its existing media network, which includes STV, Virgin Radio and Pearl & Dean.

The group has agreed to pay Mr Spowart - along with a handful of associates who devised the peopleschampion brand and concept - an initial sum of £250,000 to take control of the website's holding company. The founders will keep a 20 per cent stake in the company, as well as an option to require SMG to buy them out in 2010 or 2012.

Commenting on the launch yesterday, Donald Emslie, the acting chief executive of SMG, said: "Peopleschampion.com is a fantastic business proposition and provides a great opportunity to build on our very strong relationship with our viewers and help them save money. This initiative fits SMG's digital strategy like a glove and will help us achieve our stated aim of generating more than 25 per cent of broadcasting revenues from non-spot advertising by 2010."

Mr Spowart is one of Britain's most successful financial entrepreneurs, having established Standard Life Bank, Intelligent Finance, as well as Direct Line Financial Services. Commenting on his latest project yesterday, he said: "Put simply, we will be bringing consumers the best deals. This will save them significant amounts of money. My track record has been in offering people value-for-money products and Peopleschampion.com is the natural progression ... This is the future and we know that the UK consumer has been waiting for this easy-to-use, one-stop shop."

Shares in SMG fell more than 1.3 per cent yesterday, closing at 73.5p. The stock is now down more than 14.5 per cent since January. Its chief executive Andrew Flanagan quit the firm last month after pressure from shareholders who were unhappy with the group's strategy.