Purplebricks delay appointment of new chief Helena Marston following previous bankruptcy

Purplebricks has been forced to delay the appointment of its new boss as advisers consider the implications of a previous personal insolvency which has not been disclosed to shareholders.

The online estate agent has announced that Helena Marston is unable to take up her duties as chief executive on Monday as planned because due diligence has not yet been completed.

He did not reveal the reasons for the robbery, but sources said concerns centered on Ms Marston being declared under her maiden name Epplestone in September 2014.

As an Aim Junior listed company, Purplebricks must obtain board appointments approved by its appointed advisor, Zeus.

The former personal insolvency was declared to Zeus as part of a questionnaire Ms Marston completed upon her appointment. His bankruptcy was reversed.

Sources said there had been an internal discussion about whether this should also be revealed to investors in a stock market notice on March 10 announcing his appointment. The details were included in a preliminary version of this announcement, but were later removed.

Neil Miller, chief executive of due diligence firm Ten Intelligence, said Ms Marston’s credentials should be carefully checked as part of the appointment process.

He said: “Before an individual can be appointed to the board of a publicly traded company, the appointed adviser will need to complete their due diligence. As part of this process, the individual will be required to submit, respond and disclose a questionnaire for directors.

“The questions will give the individual the opportunity to indicate whether they have ever been subject to legal proceedings, litigation, criminal records, disciplinary investigations and insolvency.

“Any adverse findings, unexplained gaps in their story or any other red flags should be challenged through the judging process before naming the person.”

Ms Marston had served as chief operating officer under former chief executive Vic Darvey, who stepped down in March for personal reasons. She was not on the board in that role.

This isn’t the first time Purplebricks have faced controversy. The company was fined £267,000 by HMRC in 2020 for breaching anti-money laundering rules.

Purplebricks said: “Following the March 10, 2022 announcement regarding the appointment of Helena Marston as Chief Executive Officer of the Company, the Company announces that the due diligence reviews required by the Aim Rules are underway and that the appointment d’Helena therefore remains subject to the completion of these checks.

“A further announcement will be made as soon as possible.”

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