New hope for besieged estate agents

Johannesburg - A knight on a white horse in the guise of the Rawson Property Group could soon come to the rescue of the Wendy Machanik Properties (WMP) agents.

That is, of course, if there are any to be rescued.

Last Thursday the South Gauteng High Court made an order preventing WMP from doing business until at least Tuesday, when the application by the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) against WMP was to be heard in Johannesburg.

On December 24 last year the EAAB obtained an urgent interdict against both Wendy Machanik, one of Gauteng’s best-known estate agents, and WMP. In terms of the interdict she was prohibited from getting anywhere near WMP’s trust account. The trust account is currently under curatorship.

Machanik is accused of using money from WMP’s trust account to cover both the company’s running costs and her personal expenses.

Rawson chief executive Tony Clarke said his company has been in negotiations with WMP to take over the struggling entity for a couple of months.

He said Rawson had approached WMP with a takeover offer about a month before the bad news had surfaced.

He said his company’s interest in WMP was nothing out of the ordinary, as it had previously taken over many struggling estate agencies.

It was a tragedy, he said, that WMP agents were currently unable to earn a living because their fidelity fund certificates had not been renewed.

According to Clarke the parties had not yet signed a formal agreement and the deal was still in the balance. The parties had been unable to decide on a selling price for WMP because Rawson had not had sight of WMP’s financial statements. He had apparently decided to provisionally value the enterprise on the basis of its net turnover.

The deal has now been put in question because “almost half” of WMP’s agents apparently walked out during a meeting on Friday.

According to Clarke, Rawson could still withdraw from the deal. Should it decide to proceed, the transaction could be finalised “within 14 days”.

A WMP estate agent who wished to remain anonymous said Rawson’s takeover bid would fail because all the agents had already left.

A former WMP agent who also wished to remain anonymous said he and his colleagues at WMP’s Randburg branch had accepted an offer to join Fine & Country. He started working for it on Monday.

WMP financial director Bruce Bernstein declined to comment  about the takeover bid. He referred questions to Wendy Machanik.

She could not be reached by the time of publication.

- Sake24

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