The co-founder of price comparison website Moneysupermarket.com is to net a £200 million windfall by cashing in a 18.5 per cent stake in the business.
Simon Nixon is selling 100 million shares in the first major disposal of his stock since the price comparison website floated in 2007.
It is the latest boost in the personal wealth of the entrepreneur, a university dropout turned financial adviser who banked a £103m fortune when the business went public. He still retains a holding of just under 30 per cent, and the company said the move would increase liquidity and normalise its shareholding structure.
The 45-year-old launched the website in 1999 following the success of an earlier mortgage sourcing company. He had previously quit Nottingham University because he found his accountancy course boring.
Moneysupermarket co-founder Duncan Cameron sold his stake in the business in 2007 for £162m ahead of the flotation.
Nixon is now switching to more of a backseat role, after stepping down as chief executive in 2008 and in April moving from executive deputy chairman to a non-executive position. Following the sale, arranged by Credit Suisse and Citigroup, he will be subject to a nine-month “lock-up” during which he will be unable to sell any of his remaining shares in the company.
Chairman Gerald Corbett said: “Simon remains a major shareholder and will continue to play a key role on the board.”
Separately, Moneysupermarket announced it would hand shareholders £70m in a special interim dividend payout of 12.92p a share.
In an update on trading, it said revenues for the year to date were 10 per cent higher than the same period in 2012. Moneysupermarket recently posted a 30 per cent rise in annual pre-tax profits to £31.5m, but admitted it was being impacted by the depressed savings market.
It bought journalist Martin Lewis’s MoneySavingExpert website for £92.5m last September.
Analyst Steve Liechti, at Investec, retained his “buy” rating on the shares, saying: This looks a relatively nice liquidity event in our view, with an encouraging extra dividend for an online business and brand that we are warming to, despite ever-present competitive pressures in insurance-based price comparison.”
But Mark Williamson at Peel Hunt said investors should follow Nixon’s example and “sell”.
He said the group is in danger of being overtaken by a new breed of competitors that offer savings or cashback as well as advice.
“I believe that the market is evolving and that the refusal of the incumbents to acknowledge the risk could result in them becoming displaced in the value chain quickly,” he said, citing the way Google eclipsed Altavista and AOL and Facebook’s rise to dwarf older Myspace as examples of how quickly loyalties can shift on the internet.
He said: “This risk is not necessarily going to be manifest in the next set of numbers or even the numbers after that but it is real and by the time it is apparent the damage will have already been done and will be hard to put right.”