Leader: Saved from jaws of disaster

The news last week that Towergate had saved John Charcol at the 11th hour, taking the firm out of administration, was a shot in the arm for the industry.

Mortgage Strategy revealed in last week’s issue that Towergate was rumoured to be looking at buying the company. Founded in 1974 John Charcol has built up a strong reputation both within the industry and with consumers, largely due to the work of its main spokesman and industry guru Ray Boulger.

Of course, cosying up to a new parent is nothing new for John Charcol – in the past 36 years it has seen many changes. In 1984 the brokerage was bought by Anaco, which was itself bought two years later by British and Commonwealth Group. It was back in the hands of founder John Garfield in 1989.

But nine years later it was on the move again when US venture capital firm Warburg Pincus took a 71% stake in it before it was purchased outright by Bradford & Bingley in 2000. After a brief name change to Charcol the company was again under the management of Garfield as John Charcol in 2004.

But in the past two years, like the mortgage industry, the brand has had a tough time. No firm in the sector has been insulated from the credit crunch, whether it is a one-man band brokerage or national network.

The potentially damaging psychological effect of seeing another scalp added to the list of well-known brokerages that have fallen by the wayside in recent times cannot be emphasised strongly enough – especially one as high profile as John Charcol.

Hopefully, the brokerage’s move to Towergate will be enough to get the brand back on its feet.