Hayley Parsons, the entrepreneur who founded the opera-singer-fronted price comparison site Go Compare at her kitchen table eight years ago, will bank nearly £44m after insurance group esure said it would buy the 50% of her business it did not already own.
The £95m deal will see Parsons personally receive £43.7m for her remaining stake in the website, if the transaction goes through as planned in the first quarter of next year. Esure bought its first 50% of Go Compare in 2010, after paying £2.7m for an option to purchase the holding in 2007.
Parsons founded the business in 2006 with funding from insurance industry veteran Tom Duggan, after quitting the FTSE 100 insurer Admiral, where she had worked on the launch of its price comparison site Confused.com.
She said: “I am very proud that a company I started at my kitchen table eight years ago has achieved so much in such a short period of time. Today, we are a leading price comparison business in the UK and this is credit to all the wonderful, hard-working people we have in Newport.
“I have always said that the staff at Gocompare.com come first and I will always do the right thing by them. As such, esure’s commitment to keep our headquarters in Newport was an extremely important part of my decision to sell the business and I am confident that I’ll be leaving it in very safe hands”.
When esure floated on the stock exchange last year, its prospectus revealed that Go Compare’s shareholders would consider approaches of at least £275m for the price comparison business, and could compel esure to sell its holding in the business if that price was offered.
Last month rival Admiral warned: “The UK price comparison market remains highly competitive and we expect Confused.com to deliver a lower result in the second half compared to the first half of 2014.” However, in the same month rival Moneysupermarket.com said quarterly revenues had shot up by 18%. In its last financial year ending 31 December 2013, Gocompare.com reported a turnover of £110m, up from £105m in 2012, with profits before tax rising to £25m, from £24m.
Gocompare.com will continue to be based in its existing headquarters in Newport, south Wales, although Parsons will step down as chief executive. She is to be replaced by Jon Morrell, currently managing director of esure broker and esure’s deputy chief operating officer. The acquisition is subject to approval by the Competition and Markets Authority.
Immortalised in song
Hayley Parsons’ home of Newport was immortalised in song in the Alicia Keys parody as a “concrete jumble, nothing in order, not far from the border”: the broader joke being any comparison between the small south Wales city and the opportunities offered by New York. Well, go compare. Parsons, 41, took eight years to turn an idea planned at her kitchen table into a £200m company based in her town – and make herself a fortune. The mother of two, born in nearby Cwmbran, left her Newport comprehensive at 16 with five GCSEs, having once hoped to have been an interior designer. Instead she joined insurance firm Admiral where she worked for the next 14 years, helping launch its own pioneering price comparison site, confused.com. In 2006, Parsons left to pursue her own vision of how to do something similar, but better.
A stand-out success in a male-dominated industry, Parsons has brushed aside questions of gender, remarking that to acknowledge a glass ceiling would make her spend life on the floor looking up. She was given an OBE for services to the economy in 2012. An honorary fellow of the University of Newport, Parsons said the commitment from buyer esure to keep Go Compare’s HQ in the area was an important factor in the sale.
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