Martin Lewis, consumer champion of daytime TV and Moneysavingexpert.com (MSE) fame has agreed to sell MSE to Moneysupermarket Financial Group, the company behind financial comparison powerhouse Moneysupermarket.com (MS). The details of the deal are summed up well by this Affiliates4u blog post, but the financials of the deal – a possible £87 million payout – are essentially as quoted below (from the linked article):
The purchase is to be structured partly with a £35 million cash payment upfront and an estimated 22.1 million in MoneySupermarket.com shares. In addition there’ll be a deferred consideration of up to £27 million, which will take into account the future performance of MoneySavingExpert.com against non-financial metrics. The targets are said to be based on growth and trust in the site.
In my (Anthony Ball’s) time in previous companies and employment, I’ve worked very closely with both of these companies at one time or another and have crossed paths and worked with and under many others who have been involved with one company or the other, as well as having been in a similar situation myself of selling what I had founded as consumer led initiatives to larger operations, though on a far smaller scale than this.
I believe Martin has done what he believes is the right thing for the right reasons, a feeling I can certainly identify with, providing security for the companies long term ambitions, himself and his staff. Indeed he has tackled the major issues that any user of MSE would be concerned about in this Q&A, including an agreed independent editorial stance, and a fantastic donation to charity from the proceeds. In my experience though, this good groundwork could all quite easily be for nought.
At the end of the day MSE, a consumer champion with the goal to provide the best advice to consumers regardless of the financial compensation it receives, is being taken over by a PLC company with shareholders to answer to and profits targets that must be consistently met or exceeded. These two goals are polar opposites and threaten to be the nail in the coffin of truly independent consumer led financial advice from MSE.
Up until now it has only been Martin’s unwavering belief in doing the right thing for consumers in helping and educating them about their finances that has kept MSE on the righteous path he has set, as it was when I had total control of various projects and websites throughout the years, however upon the sale of those projects, for what I believed be those same “right reasons” at the time, that influence and credo was slowly chipped away for monetary gain by committee with the impact of my voice lessening day by day.
Clearly Martin has become somewhat of a celebrity for his trailblazing, and as such should be a far louder voice than I in these situations, but the company he has sold to is also far bigger than the companies that slowly whittled away my vision. As a last note all I would say to Martin given the chance is:
Your work is not done yet, for all the good things you have put in place in the sale contract it only starts here. To maintain the integrity of MSE, if you want to and if you can, will require as much, if not more work than you are handing off by selling it.
I hope I’m wrong about this, I hope that in this case, doing the right thing can win over capitalism, but it will take a lot of work and I hope Martin is cut out for this very different challenge. As for me, I’m glad to be out of that situation and in control of R N D M R providing products and services with the consumers and clients best interests at heart once more.