Decision comes in the wake of the partnerships housebuilder putting itself up for sale under shareholder pressure

The chair of partnerships-focused housebuilder Countryside, former Ferguson chief executive John Martin, has resigned with immediate effect.

The news comes in the wake of the firm’s decision last month to put the business up for sale after it came under intense shareholder pressure following a major profit warning early in the new year which forced out the previous chief executive.

John Martin Countryside

John Martin has resigned all his roles at Countryside with immediate effect

The decision comes as the business is without a permanent chief executive, with Countryside Partnerships currently being run by interim co-CEOs Mike Wooliscroft and Philip Chapman, who were appointed in May, in the aftermath of the departure of their predecessor, Iain McPherson.

The firm said in a statement that John Martin, “has informed the Board of his decision to resign from all his roles at the Company with immediate effect.”

The statement said that Douglas Hurt, previously senior independent director, has now taken over the role of non-executive chair and chair of the nomination committee, and that non-exec Amanda Burton has been appointed senior independent director, both with immediate effect.

However, the statement did not make clear why Martin has chosen to go at this crucial time, in the middle of a sale process, and half-way through delivering a restructuring of the business devised in the wake of the new year profit warning. The firm has also not yet completed a recruitment process to find a successor to Iain McPherson.

Martin was only appointed to chair Countryside in April 2021, after his predecessor, John Howell, was himself forced out following shareholder pressure to change the business model of the company to focus solely on partnerships housing – something Countryside ultimately did.

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However, the expansion of partnerships housing in 2021 proved ill-fated, leading to a steep drop off in housing completions at the end of last year, prompting a profit warning.

In May a US shareholder in the business, Inclusive Capital, made an offer to buy it, after which another major shareholder Browning West – which has since January had a seat on the board – said it supported a sale. After initially resisting, Countryside said it would put itself up for a sale on June 13.

Today’s statement said there was no change to guidance for the current financial year, and Housing Today understands Martin was not pressured to leave the business.

Douglas Hurt, non-executive chair said: “We are sorry to see John Martin go and would like to thank John for his dedication, commitment and significant contribution to Countryside. We wish him all the best for the future.”

John Martin said: “I would like to thank all colleagues in Countryside who have contributed to making the company unique and to wish you all the greatest success going forward.”