Private equity firm BC Partners, the owner of Foxtons, recently held a rare press conference to admit that its investment in the London real estate agents was a “wrong call”. In so doing, BC Partners joined a vocal group of Foxton detractors, some of whom congregate on a website called WeHateFoxtons.com.
Indeed, beyond this fairly single-minded website, PERE has collected a vast amount of anecdotal evidence suggesting that there's something about Foxtons that seems to inspire, well, hatred in the hearts of many Londoners.
Maybe it's the green, branded Mini Coopers, which the majority of Foxton estate agents drive, combined with a reputation for being aggressive and triumphalist.
But times have changed. In the summer of 2007, the London property market was booming. Rental and sales prices were at all time highs, demand for property was at a peak and bidding wars for homes were a daily occurrence.
Landlords were more than happy to pay the 2.5 percent sales commissions and 10 percent rental commissions, safe in the knowledge they would not only make the commission back through inflated asking prices but actually shift their humble abode within a matter of hours. Estate agents in the capital were living the high life, and the Foxtons crew appeared to be highest.
BC Partners believed it was acquiring a proven business model that had seen Foxtons grow over 25 years to 20 offices, 1,300 employees and revenues of £100 million.
Today, London's property markets are declining at their fastest rate since the last housing bubble burst in the 1990s and Foxtons is struggling to service its debt load amid rapidly falling revenues.
Will London learn to love Foxtons in humbler times? Not before some anger is worked out. One inspection agent told us he spotted a souvenir Foxtons Mini Cooper in a newly rented apartment. There it sat on the kitchen counter, smashed and twisted like some kind of automotive voodoo doll.